Humanity and Hemoglobin

    Blood dribbled across my lips and down my chin. The metallic tinge in the liquid rolled across my tongue, and I wondered at its ability to sustain life. However, I was very careful to not let too much of it fall into my throat, spilling most of it over my front. I didn’t like the taste. Never had. But right now it was a necessity, because that’s what vampires drank, and that’s what I needed to be.

    I tried not to look at Bill’s body as it hung in the vampire’s secret kitchen, draining of blood and lifeless. Only hours before, he had been doing cannon balls into the house’s pool and splashing the girls in the hot tub. Like the rest of us, he had been overjoyed at receiving the invitation to join the new reality TV show One Big House, hoping it would rocket him to stardom. Now we would be lucky to leave alive, let alone be famous.

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    I’d had the good fortune of a warning when I saw the “producer” lady make the first attack on one of the other house guests in what we had thought was an interview room. However, I didn’t have much time after that before the screaming began. The only person I’d come across to warn was Karen, and she’d laughed off my story like I was a drunken lunatic. I knew my luck would run out sooner or later, and they would find me no matter how stealthily I crept around the house.

    Sneaking back from the secret kitchen behind the hidden door in the pantry, I poked my head out for a split second to take in my surroundings. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Well, nothing but the dead silence. Only two steps out, and a hand appeared from nowhere, grabbing my shirt and slamming me against the refrigerator. When my vision cleared, I saw what I had thought was the cameraman baring his fangs at me.

    “A little mouse, squeaking around to find a way out of the trap, huh?” 

    Now was the time to see if my bluff would work. I put a hand on his chest to hold him back as much as I could. “Do I look like a mouse to you?” I indicated the blood around my mouth and down my front.

    His thick, brown eyebrows wiggled in confusion, and he sniffed me. “You smell like a human.”

    I scoffed and gently pressed on his hand that held me. He reluctantly released me as I explained. “Of course I smell human. I’m soaked in human blood, and I’ve been cozying up to them for days.”

    He shrugged. “I guess that makes sense. I didn’t know we were gonna have anyone on the inside.” He leaned back against the island countertop.

    “It’s a good way to ask them about their background; figure out which might have people come looking for them,” I said, thankful that this monster had basically handed me my cover story.

    The cameraman chuckled. “Then I guess we have nothing to worry about since Mistress Georgia gave the order to take them.”

    “I guess not,” I agreed, though I wanted to ask more when his words struck me, hinting that the others might not all be dead. But asking more might give away that I wasn’t actually one of them. “Is this the only one we are allowed to snack on?” I pointed back toward the pantry and Bill’s body, trying not to gag as I remembered the buckets that were collecting his blood.

    “For now,” the cameraman confirmed. “We’ve got the rest in the basement, screaming and whining. It’s pathetic. One even tried threatening us, saying that her father will come and get the lot of us thrown in jail.” He laughed as he turned to walk away. “I don’t think she realizes what we are, or that you were making sure nobody would look for them.” I was sure he was talking about Karen. “Come on. The Mistress has called a meeting, and you know how she gets if someone is late.”

    If I went to that meeting, I would be found out the moment the producer, who was apparently their leader, Mistress Georgia, saw me. “Alright,” I said, as I grabbed a wooden spoon from the kitchen counter and followed. I prayed that some of the lore about vampires was true. As quick as I could, I snapped one end of the spoon handle to give it a point and jammed it into the monster’s back, hoping it hit the heart. 

    He spun around with a snarl that cut off in a faint whimper. As he fell to his knees, his skin turned an ashy grey with red cracks growing through it. Before I knew it, he was just a smoldering pile of dust and clothing.

    My heart, which had decided to pump into overdrive, began to slow, and I calmed myself by doing something normal, like sweeping up a pile of dust and folding clothing. I hid the clothes and retrieved my weaponized spoon, but it was obvious that I would need more. Unfortunately, it seemed like the vampires had done a decent job of avoiding using wood in their mansion of a house. After a few minutes of searching and sharpening, I only had my original spoon stake, a couple more broken off a cutting board, a longer one from one of the cupboard doors, and a kitchen knife.

    And with my new arsenal, I took a step into the hall only to realize that I didn’t know where I was headed. The obvious choice at this point would be to escape. The longer I stayed here, the more likely it would be that I would end up very, very dead. But the words of the now pile of dust echoed in my head. We’ve got the rest in the basement, screaming and whining. The conversation with myself went back and forth for too long.

    What could I do for them anyway? I could go get help. How many would die while I was away? Maybe none. Maybe all. Why would I risk my life for them? I hardly know them. They are just random people I met here. I don’t even like some of them. So who would care or blame me if I just escaped? They might. Their families might. Naturally, they would have at least some people that loved them, even if they had cut ties to one another. I had family and friends I didn’t talk to much, but I knew we loved each other. Each one of the people who had come here had completely different lives that had never touched my life until now. What made my life more valuable than theirs? It’s mine.

    Then one question came to mind that I couldn’t ignore. What if your positions were switched? I would hope that anyone who could help would decide to do so. I would pray that anyone human would show up. Because at this point, all humans were in this together, to live. That common strive to live was what linked us, and the undead couldn’t share that.

    I was halfway to the presumably locked front door when the guilt and sudden connection to my housemates turned me around. 

    It didn’t take long to find the door to the basement. While I figured the meeting had occupied most of the vampire/TV crew, I assumed they weren’t dumb enough to leave the humans unguarded. I went over several scenarios of what I might encounter down there, along with how I would deal with it, but the uncertainty of the next few minutes made my hands shake as I concealed my improvised weapons about my person and stepped down the stairs.

    Everything looked normal down in the basement, with the huge couches, ping-pong table, pool table, and stocked bar. However, the door in the back, which had always been locked, was now open to a shadowy room. I walked toward it, strolling as casually as possible, and stepped in. My eyes adjusted quickly enough to take in the cement floors and iron bars which penned the rest of the humans in the back half of the room. They all looked up at my entrance, as did the boom operator on my side of the cage door. She leaned against the wall, filing her nails.

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    Scenario 3 it is, I thought.

    “What the…?” the vampire started.

    “You?” That screech came from the cage as Karen slammed her hands against the bars. “You’re one of them?”

    Good, I thought. Help me play the part.

    Tossing her anger aside with an annoyed huff wasn’t difficult to fake, and I turned to the guard. “They want one of them for the meeting. Can you open the cage?”

    She looked at me for a second, clearly confused from remembering me as a guest at the house. But after a moment, she shrugged. “Sure. Can you save some for me?” she asked with a glance and the blood covering my face and shirt.

    “I’ll do my best,” I assured as she pulled out a key and turned to the door in the iron bars.

    The door swung inward and the humans huddled into the corners. I followed the guard inside and slipped one of my wooden stakes from my sleeve.

    “Any volunteers?” she asked the group with a chuckle.

    I lifted my arm to make the strike.

    She, however, turned around very quickly, and I was too slow. She locked my arm in her hand, digging into it with her newly sharpened nails. I dropped the stake to the floor. 

    “Looks like we have a little trickster trying to be a big hero,” she said with a hiss before pushing me to the ground and pinning my arms to the ground with her knees. “I’ve heard that bravery adds some good spice to the taste.” Her fangs elongated and she descended to drain me of life.

    I closed my eyes, accepting my death, only to hear a grunt and gasp. I peeped out, seeing my attacker turn the same ashy color with red cracks. Before I could push her off, she crumbled and covered me in dust that tasted like moldy bread. Coughing and choking, I tried to get back to my feet.

    More weight suddenly fell on top of me, and I felt a splintered point against my throat. When the dust cleared, I saw Gary grimacing above me.

    “Get off, Gary,” I said, trying to push him off. 

    He tilted to one side then righted himself on top of me, returning the point of my own weapon to my throat. “You’re covered in blood. You’re one of them.”

    “The guard attacked him after he tried to kill her, Gary,” Pat whispered. “He’s one of us.”

    The point lifted from my jugular and Gary frowned in thought. “Where’d the blood come from?”

    I hesitated in answering, but when I did, I couldn’t meet anyone in the eye. “Bill. They drained him dry.” I heard a gasp and sob in the darkness.

    Gary nodded, satisfied at my remorse, and helped me back up. I dusted off the dead vampire and looked at the group. 

    Nine of us left. Nine of us together. Nine of us alive with hopes and futures outside of this house. I took a deep breath and promised myself that we would see those futures.

    “Who’s ready to fight?” I asked, wondering who to give the spare stakes to as I pulled them out. I let Gary hold onto the one I had dropped, which he had used to save me. 

    Karen was the first to step forward and I handed her a weapon. “This doesn’t mean I like you,” she sneered. I chuckled inside at the ridiculousness of the thought.

    Once those with a fighting spirit had been armed, I looked at the group. “Apparently they are in a meeting, so now’s our best chance to escape.” I flipped my stake in my hands. “Nobody gets left behind.”

    With a few determined nods, those strangers I now considered closer than some family joined me in the fight to escape that house of death.

***

    I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be get onto one of those reality shows where a bunch of overdramatic people are put together in a house. I don’t think I would fit in very well in the sense that I would try to lessen the drama, which apparently doesn’t make for good television. Either way, I don’t think it would be fun to go on a fake one run by vampires looking for an easy meal.

    The reason I chose to look more into this dream is because of something I’ve been contemplating lately, which is the incredible variety of people in the world and what connections we have with one another. 

    For example, I was at work the other day, seeing stranger after stranger pass by. Normally (and I know this is a common attitude of many), people annoy me in general, so my thoughts only turn to them when it also involves me. I know this is a selfish attitude to have, and I try to fight it when I become aware of it, but it seems like an extension of the natural inclination toward self preservation. I worry about myself first, and then others if I’m taken care of. However, on this certain day, my mind went to wondering what these strangers were thinking about. What kinds of experiences have they had in their lives to make them the people they were? What hardships have they endured? What are their priorities, and how do those affect how they act? And what brought them right there, at that time, to be in the same place as me? And should that mean something? Will I never have the chance to get to know this person ever again?

    Many more similar kinds of questions pass through my mind, but in the end it awakened an emotion that I usually reserve for other situations. I felt an outpouring of fraternal love for these people, almost as if they were my own family. I realized that each one of them were living their lives the best they could, just like me. They might have different worries and thought processes, but every one of them was striving for some kind of happiness or contentment, just like me. I know this is also a feeling shared by many, but I didn’t know what to do about it. It was slightly overwhelming. 

    Now, whether that feeling of love was generated by an innate sense that we all share some kind of spiritual heritage or by the simple realization that every single human being is sharing the same struggle that we call life, I don’t think it matters. What matters to me is that I realized that everyone has their reason for doing things, and in the end, that reason is because we are all striving for happiness. Knowing that, and as long as I keep it in mind, I find it easier to try and understand others when they act in a way that seems wrong or absolutely stupid to me. For whatever reason, they think those actions will help them in their quest to complete or fill their lives. With this, communication then becomes the key for true understanding of one another, but that is a discussion for another time.

    Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that I like everyone. People can still rub me the wrong way and I might dislike being around certain people. But I try not to jump to conclusions and judge the person. They are sharing this struggle of life just like me. We are just on different paths, and I only see where our paths have crossed.

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    So, in a situation where a bunch of strangers are thrown together in a house, I am proud that my dream self decided to try and help the others that had been captured instead of just saving my own skin. I was able to see that we were all in the same situation, and not one of us were more valuable than the other when it really came down to it. Though I can only hope I would actually have that kind of courage in real life.

    Vampires, on the other hand, are not human. Screw the undead.