“I can’t stay. I can’t… I got careless, sloppy, lost control, and I just… I just keep hurting everyone.”
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
Celia: Once she ditches Jade’s face, Celia feels a little more safe. Not many licks know this face, and it wasn’t seen by the hunter, either. The thought fills her with some measure of disquiet. She needs to find him. Soon.
She takes a moment at her haven to gather a handful of supplies for the evening before she makes the trip to her mom’s.
GM: It’s a short trip back from Jade’s haven to Celia’s family’s house, once again wearing Celia’s face. She lets herself in and finds Emily massaging their mom’s leg on the living room couch.
“Oh thank goodness, you’re back!” smiles Diana. She motions for Celia to join them on the couch and hugs her daughter. “How’d things go, sweetie? Are you safe?”
Celia: She’s all smiles as soon as she walks in to see the two of them together. The word “sweetie” sets aside some of her mounting anxiety.
“Sort of,” she says to her mom, relaxing into the embrace. “I still have to do this task and the guy from last night tried to bully my friend and I, but I lied my ass off and had some timely assistance, so I’m okay. How’d it go here?”
GM: Celia’s mother scowls. It’s an expression that’s more familiar on Payton’s face than Diana’s.
“Who tried to bully you?”
Emily doesn’t say hi yet. She looks at their mom’s face with a ‘huh’ expression.
Celia: “One of the hounds.”
GM: “Sorry?” says Emily.
Celia: “They’re like, ah, law enforcement. There’s a sheriff, and he has three hounds under him. Like deputies.”
GM: “So vampire cops are assholes just like human cops.”
“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?”
“You know as well as me there are lots of good cops, sweetie,” says Diana. “Though you get rotten apples in every barrel.”
Emily gives her an odd look.
“Emi?” asks their mom.
“It’s just the way you said that,” says Emily, shaking her head. “It felt different than normal.”
“Oh, how?” asks Diana.
“Just… more declarative. Firmer. ‘You know there are good cops.’ I feel like you’d have been more… not really begging, but more entreating, earlier?”
Celia: “She’s changed,” Celia says gently. “She’s still Mom. But she’s different now.”
GM: “Sure am, on both counts,” says Diana.
But she smiles too.
Emily smiles back. “Sorry. Just takes some getting used to.”
“So will a lot of things, I reckon,” says her mom. She rubs Celia’s back. “I’m glad you got away safe from that cop, anyway.”
“Me too,” says Emily, before looking back to Celia. “Do you still do hugs?”
“You saw us,” points out Diana.
Celia: Celia laughs, pulling Emily towards her.
“Of course I do.”
GM: Emily gives her a squeeze.
“Well hey to you too, then.”
Celia: “Hey, Emi.” Celia squeezes her back. “How’re you holding up?”
GM: “Uh. This has been a lot to take in.”
“She had the idea to write down what topics we wanted to bring up,” says Diana.
Celia: “Sorry. I never intended either of you to get involved. This is probably why no one keeps families.”
GM: Her mom shakes her head. “It’s for the best we know, I think. This is too big a thing to keep secret.”
“I agree,” says Emily.
Diana rubs her leg. “Also, sweetie, if you could get back to it…”
Celia: “I’ve got it, Mom. Emi, give your hands a break.”
GM: “Thanks,” says Emily.
“Thanks,” Diana repeats.
“So, if you’re biologically dead… what, do you not experience muscle fatigue any longer?” says Emily.
“That seems logical, but the fact you’re walking and talking without a pulse kind of says logic got thrown out the window.”
Celia: Celia laughs as she takes a seat on the floor, pulling her mother’s leg toward her to get started.
“No fatigue. No tiredness. No discomfort over standing all night or wearing uncomfortable shoes or sleeping on the floor. No sleep, actually. I don’t need to move, blink, breathe. I can sit absolutely still for hours and stare at nothing. Any changes to my body, injury or otherwise, will revert over the day during our… well, we call it sleep, but I’m pretty sure it’s just kind of like dying. It’s not restful. We don’t nap. You know?”
GM: “Wow,” says Emily.
“You’d be the envy of any ballerina,” Diana murmurs.
“Envy of a lot of people,” says the almost-MD, shaking her head as if to consider all of the implications.
“Definitely the envy of any massage therapist.”
“Do you want my spot on the couch? Or does it not make a difference if you’re already fine sleeping on the floor?”
Celia: “I’m fine down here,” Celia says with a smile. “Better angle for the leg, anyway.”
GM: Her mom smiles back at her as Celia’s hands start to work their familiar magic.
“Speakin’ of that,” says Diana.
“I told Emi about how we can get that fixed! I am so darn tired of this bum leg!”
“I don’t see any reason to wait ’til summer now that she knows.”
Celia: “Summer was to give you time away from the school, as well. So you’re not magically healed overnight. But…”
Celia trails off, looking over to Emily.
“It’s true. There are people who can fix her leg. Night doctors, we call them. They can manipulate tissue. Skin, organs, hair, everything. The issue is the one I know, the one I’m close to, doesn’t do bone work. She’s studying, but hasn’t, ah, passed her test I guess you could say. It hasn’t clicked for her. There’s a few options, though.”
“First, we wait until she does learn. I don’t know how long that’ll be. Second, we replace her bone with something else. The doctor can add or remove bone, she just can’t work on the bone itself, you know? So we could use some other material, or even someone else’s bone. Any cadaver won’t miss it. Third, we find someone other than my friend. Which is… dangerous, possibly.”
“There are two I know that are, ah, outside the city. I think the one is in Europe, and he’s not really my friend, just someone I know. The other might also be abroad, but she hasn’t gotten back to me yet.”
GM: Celia can see a million and one thoughts and questions swimming in the almost-doctor’s eyes.
“I can fake it,” says Diana. “Pop some placebos. Sit on my stool instead of standing.”
Celia: “Okay. So that leaves two or three.”
GM: “Are there any side effects to using material other than my bone?” asks Celia’s mom.
“…where do you get your hands on cadavers?” asks Emily.
Celia: “Shouldn’t be. I’ve been looking into it. Doctors do this occasionally, they’ve been studying it because of things like osteoporosis. It’s been on the rise since, ah, like mid 2000s. Bone density loss. So, you know, they’ve been working on finding ways to fix it because the numbers are kind of through the roof. They started with teeth, I think? Like… a while ago. Anyway, if you’re not open to a bone replacement, we could use something they use for grafting. Bioceramics, they call them. Or collagen, really, they use it in grafts as well and that’s easier to get ahold of.”
“Actually,” Celia says after a beat, “that might not be a bad idea, the collagen and carbon fiber. You won’t set off metal detectors or anything, and it’ll be light, and it could happen sooner rather than later…” Celia trails off, pulling her purse toward her. She opens a notebook and flips through the pages, searching for… “Ah, here,” she says, showing it to Emily. The page contains the notes of the studies she has done on collagen and carbon fiber working together as a protective sort of body armor.
She tries not to think about the bracers she had made for her sire. How the night he’d flung Diana from the roof is the same night she’d presented him with a gift.
Oh, how the collar chafes.
“I know some people,” she says to Emily.
“We do kill,” she clarifies. “We don’t have to. But we do, some of us. Most of us, honestly. I’m not some sparkling teen vampire. It’s… a lot grittier than all that. They executed four licks at mass tonight. And a handful more humans.”
GM: “Okay,” says her mom at first. “If there’s no side effects, if it can happen sooner, if there’s danger finding someone else, then why not, let’s go for it.”
Emily pours through the notes intently, then looks abruptly up at Celia’s words.
“Jesus fucking Christ!”
“Oh my lord,” Diana murmurs.
Celia: Celia looks away.
“Yeah,” she murmurs, “I was going to be one of them, but I got out. The others didn’t.”
“They didn’t even do what they were accused of, I’m pretty sure. It was all just smoke and mirrors. Prince trying to look powerful.”
GM: Emily just stares at that.
GM: Their mother nods.
Celia: “That’s why I wanted to keep you away from it.”
GM: “You said most vampires kill. That you aren’t a sparkly teen fantasy. So… have you killed?” asks Emily.
Celia: Celia meets her sister’s eye.
GM: “Who?” asks Emily.
Celia: “Hunters. People who abducted me from the spa. They were going to hand me off to an even worse group. Had me staked and tied to a bed. So I killed them to get out. Two of them. A third, when they attacked my boyfriend’s haven. They would have killed us. I killed them first.”
GM: “Those people who abducted you were the same ones who raped you?” asks Diana.
GM: “Oh my go… what the fuck!” exclaims Emily.
“You seriously got… kidnapped, raped, and almost killed?!”
Celia: Celia nods.
GM: Emily looks like she could cry.
But doesn’t want to make this about her.
“Celia, I don’t even know what to say. Are you… are you okay?”
Celia: Her smile is sad.
“Most nights,” she says, “most nights I’m okay. Most nights I go about my business and mind my own things. Lately it’s been… turbulent. That’s not even…” Celia swallows. She doesn’t need to, but here and now she’s pretending to be human again, and she plays the role. She looks away, blinking back moisture.
“It’s… it’s scary, Emi. There’s no one to trust. No one to… to talk to. It’s lonely. So lonely. They do terrible things to each other and it’s just part of their social game. I’ve been raped. Used. Humiliated. Beaten. This was… coming here, you know, having you and Mom, it’s the only time I ever felt safe. Loved. And it’s… knowing I’ve brought this to you now is just… I keep thinking, what if someone finds out. What if someone finds out you know, what are they going to do. The hound tonight threatened to kill the girl I was with because he didn’t like me. When we were interrupted, when he had his claws out and I was trapped and someone stopped him? He threatened to beat that guy, too, and kill all of his ghouls as well. The harpies called ‘take off her head’ when I used some speed to get through the doors because they thought I was violating the rules. And if—if Savoy hadn’t—”
She didn’t want to make this about her, either. But when the genuine concern shows on her sister’s face she can’t help it, and all the pain comes tumbling out. She would have died. Last night. Tonight. A week from now, maybe, if she doesn’t do what she needs. Sooner, if the hunter comes back for her. She’d gotten him out, though; maybe he’ll remember that. That she could have turned him in and didn’t. That she put herself between him and danger.
As if such kindness exists in the world.
She doesn’t mean to cry. But she does, red flowing from her eyes while she turns her face away, pretending that she’s not.
“Most nights,” she says again. “Most nights I’m okay.”
“The weekends are hardest, I think. There’s lick stuff to do. Friday and Sunday it’s a mix of all the factions and everyone hates each other and pretends to be someone they’re not and they all just posture and nitpick and bully, and if you don’t stand up for yourself you’re weak and if you say the wrong thing you’ll be torn apart. Saturdays, too, but to a lesser degree. The court on Saturdays is more relaxed. It’s usually just the one faction, so even if people don’t necessarily like each other there’s still not quite the danger there is when we’re all mixed. You can let your hair down a little. And there’s a party after.”
“But it’s still all vampires all around, and it’s… you never know who’s going to try to fuck you over. Who’s hiding a knife behind their smile.”
GM: Celia hears motion behind her, after she turns away and starts to weep. Then she feels her mother’s and sister’s arms encircling her, holding her against them.
“Hey,” Emily says. “Hey, it’s…”
Diana reaches a hand to Celia’s face, to brush her daughter’s tears.
Her fingers come away red.
“Oh my god!” exclaims Emily.
Celia: Despite the tears, Celia giggles.
GM: Diana stares at her fingers. For a moment, she doesn’t seem to see Celia, Emily, or anything else.
The fingers move towards her mouth.
Then they pause, and her cheeks redden.
Celia: Celia turns to follow the look. She takes her mother’s hand gently in her own, giving her fingers a gentle squeeze.
“It’s okay, Momma. I know it’s hard.”
GM: “Okay, you’e acting like this isn’t a big deal, should I not be acting like this is a big deal? Should I not be thinking ‘subconjunctival hemorrhage’ or wondering where you hurt your eye?” asks Emily, staring at Celia’s bloody face. Her voice is a little high.
Celia: Celia keeps her eyes on her mother’s face, her own soft in understanding, even as she address Emily’s question.
“We don’t produce tears anymore. Everything is blood with us.”
GM: “Well that must make sex a fucking nightmare,” says Emily.
Celia: Celia laughs again, shaking her head.
“Sex is feeding, for us. For most of us.”
“We don’t have sex the human way.”
“I mean. I do. But I’m… different, I guess.”
“Vampire sex is… kind of like fighting. We bite each other and mutually feed, and we tussle on the floor or bed or whatever.”
GM: Diana’s face looks stern. It’s an unfamiliar look on the woman’s face. She doesn’t look as if she’s listening to the sex explanation, either. Celia can see the want still there in her mother’s eyes. To just stick the fingers into her mouth. Where is the harm? It’s blood already shed.
Diana squeezes her daughter’s hand back, then removes her bloody fingers and wipes them over Celia’s palm.
Celia: “Momma,” Celia says gently, interrupting the vampire sex talk, “do you still want to do this with me?”
“You said, earlier, you wanted to make some of your own decisions about things. Is this one of them?”
GM: “That’s one of the things I meant to talk with you about tonight,” her mother answers slowly.
“I don’t want this for Emily.”
Celia: “Any of it, or just the blood?”
GM: Emily frowns and looks between them.
Celia: “Did she explain what she is?” Celia asks Emily.
GM: “No,” says Emily.
“We didn’t get to that yet,” says their mom. “I wanted to talk with you about it in private first, and then with Emily. But I guess we might as well have it out now.”
Celia: “Sorry,” Celia murmurs.
GM: “Okay, what is she… doing?” asks Emily, frowning. “You said you weren’t a vampire, Mom.”
Celia: “She’s what we call a ghoul. Half-blood. Renfield. Some less polite terms are servant or slave. She has vampire blood inside of her, but she’s still human. When we feed humans our blood they gain some properties of what we can do, depending on how old they are and how strong the vampire is. Mom picked up… speed, I think, I haven’t seen her use anything else, but it’s only been a week. She’s effectively immortal so long as the blood stays in her system. If she stops taking it, she’ll age to where she should be as if she’d never taken it.”
Celia glances at Emily.
“It sounds cool, right? Except the blood is addictive. Worse than heroin. One hit, you’re hooked. People become shells of who they are. A lot of them are slaves for real. They don’t have rights in our society. They’re beaten, abused, humiliated, killed, and the vampires don’t care. They’re property. That’s why the blood bond exists, though. It makes them love us more. Absolutely devoted.”
“Most of them will do almost anything for a hit.”
GM: “So… why the fuck did you give her it!?” Emily exclaims.
“I was hurt,” says Diana.
Celia: “Because I thought she was dying.”
“The night she found out about me she tried to feed me. I was hurt. Long story, I’ll tell you eventually if you want. I thought someone was coming after Mom to get to me, so I got to her first, revealed what I was, and… and told her that I needed to feed, to repair my body, but I couldn’t do it without hurting her. I was running on fumes. I’d have lost control. I asked if she’d donate, if she could just give me a little. But… you know how she is,” Celia says, unable to help the smile, “she gives all of herself to people.”
GM: “Was,” corrects Diana.
Celia: “Was,” Celia echoes.
GM: “But, yes. Like always, I gave enough of myself to kill myself.”
Celia: “So I replaced what she lost.”
“And I could have… I had the option to remove her memories of the night, but that doesn’t take away the feelings behind them, so I… I didn’t. And I wonder if maybe that was wrong, but…” Celia finally looks away, hiding the shame in her eyes. “It was selfish to keep you like this, Mom. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
GM: Emily takes all of that in very slowly.
“So, quit,” she says. “If it’s a drug. Stop taking it. Cold turkey. We’ll help you.”
“And for what it’s worth,” she continues, but looking towards Celia, “I’d rather have Mom try vampire heroin a few times than be dead, so I don’t think you made the wrong decision. At first, anyway.”
Celia: “You could, Mom. You could quit. If that’s what you want. It’s only been a week. Your body isn’t going to turn to dust or anything.”
GM: “You said it was dangerous if I quit,” says Diana. “That you’d, we’d, all get in trouble for me knowing about vampires, if I wasn’t a ghoul.”
“Uh, so where does that leave me?” asks Emily.
“That was exactly my thought,” her mom answers slowly.
“I don’t want this for you.”
Celia: “It is dangerous. It’s very dangerous. If someone finds out, you die. I die. If one of the prince’s agents finds out, there’s no doubt they’d use it as an excuse to kill us all.”
GM: “I am not addicting my daughter to heroin because I am scared someone is going to hurt her for not being an addict,” says Diana.
Celia: “I know. I don’t want it for you either, Em. I’m happy to help how I can in other ways, but the Blood is… it’s not a good world to be part of.”
“I don’t want to interrupt your life.”
“And no matter my intentions, it would be.”
GM: “Yeah, I think I’ll pass on being the addict slave shell of who I was, thanks,” says Emily.
“I’d be a terrible slave anyway.”
Celia: “You would be.”
GM: “Robby likes it when I use the strap-on.”
Celia: Celia laughs at that.
“I mean, I think you’d make a good vampire, maybe.”
“And there are benefits to having a ghoul who isn’t, ah, a doormat.”
GM: Perhaps in spite of herself, their mom laughs too.
At Emily’s joke.
Celia: “But it’s not something I want for you.”
“Which leaves us in a bit of a bad spot, since you know, and knowing can get you killed.”
GM: “It’s been a week,” says Diana.
“I haven’t met any vampires besides ones you’ve introduced me to.”
“I don’t doubt you’re scared, sweetie, and maybe assuming the worst. Believe me, as a mom, I know.”
“I just wonder if it’s clouding your judgment?”
Celia: “Possibly,” Celia admits. “I’m… rather paranoid about people reading minds, mostly, but they don’t really have a reason to, and unless you draw attention to yourself or ask questions or say something… and you’re mostly doing stuff during the day, right?”
GM: “I’m home pretty much every night,” her mom nods. “I mean, in the winter months, I might be out later, but I’m hardly a bar crawlin’ party animal.”
“Well I like to go out sometimes, this feels like a conservative metaphor for drinking and partying getting you killed,” says Emily.
“Though I guess if I were a vampire that, uh, makes sense as a place to drink people’s blood.”
Celia: “Yeah. I usually go to clubs.”
GM: “Well, fuck, should I be a shut-in now?”
“If I don’t want vampires slurping down my blood?”
Celia: Celia shrugs. “Don’t go home with strange people or let them corner you in bathrooms or anything. Use the buddy system.”
GM: Suddenly Emily freezes.
GM: “I. There was a day.”
Celia: “What day? When?”
GM: “I woke up. Groggy. Tired.”
“There were marks on my skin.”
Celia: Celia nods. “How long ago?”
GM: Emily looks nauseous.
Celia: “Do you remember what you were doing that night?”
GM: “It… it was a week night.”
“I think just home, studying?”
GM: Emily rubs her head. “I don’t… I don’t remember.”
Celia: “I can… I can look, if you like. I can use a method on you to unlock it.”
Celia: “Find the memory.”
“Undo the fog.”
“When we feed, it creates a sort of haze.”
“So I could find out who. Or if you were made to forget something else, too.”
“We can erase memories. It’s one of the options I was going to suggest for you, if you’re worried about being found out. I can… um, well I’m kind of paranoid I guess,” she gives a little laugh, “so I found a way to… to undo it.”
GM: “Okay, let’s, let’s do it. I want to know if someone, some vampire, was slurping down my blood.”
Diana nods gravely.
Celia: Celia nods. Then her face goes still, something similar to shame in her eyes.
“I, ah, I need to feed first, I’m riding the edge of… of losing control next time I feed if I don’t.”
GM: “How’s right now, then?” asks her mom.
Celia: “If you’re okay with that..?”
GM: “It’s like donating blood, isn’t it?” shrugs her mom. “I’m happy to help strangers that way, but I’d rather help you.”
Celia: “Thanks, Mom. I really… I’m really lucky to have you, you know? Do you want to do it here, or…?”
GM: “I’m lucky to have you too, sweetie,” her mom smiles back. “No time like the present, I guess.”
She extends her arm.
Celia: Far cry from the neck she usually offers, but Celia doesn’t complain about where she feeds from. It’s just one of those things, she thinks. She rolls back the sleeve of Diana’s fluffy robe—evidently they’d gotten comfortable while they waited for her—and finds a spot to sink in. Fangs elongate in her mouth, piercing the otherwise unmarked skin.
As ever, it tastes like love. But it’s not the all-giving love of the past feedings. It’s hardier. Steely, somehow, a protective sort of love. Nurturing, sure, but more in the way of mother bear than Suzy Homemaker.
She doesn’t take much. Enough to slake the Beast’s ever-present thirst without hurting her mother more than necessary. She’ll be able to sleep it off.
When she’s done she licks the wound closed, sealing the holes behind her.
GM: It does taste like love. Warm and caring like the chicken soup Celia’s mother used to make during her childhood. Like the hearty breakfast she made for an exhausted and sleep-deprived Celia who’d gone too long without eating, and then attentively watched her eat. The last meal of her life. (Was it the last? It’s been so long.) Love was baked into the ingredients, the kind you can’t get at any restaurant, no matter how many Michelin stars it has. There probably are objectively better-tasting vessels than Diana—but what other Kindred could sample this vessel and the experience the same taste her daughter does? They would not taste the outpouring of love, the free and uncoerced desire to give of herself to help Celia. To feed her baby.
But it tastes thicker, this time. Heartier. Less watered down. Not as salty. The saltiness came from the woman’s tears. Tears of abuse. Tears of mourning for what was lost at a sadistic dollmaker’s hands. Tears of desire to give and give and give, heedless of the cost to herself, a martyr complex rooted in self-hate and self-pity, yet all but impossible to detect amidst the genuine desire to nourish, nurture, and help.
But the tear-like saltiness is gone now. It tastes rich. It tastes strong. It tastes bright. It tastes warm.
It tastes whole.
Her Beast would love to take more than just this shallow libation.
Celia: She’d never noticed. Never noticed how incomplete the blood was, not when she could taste the love. But this? Oh, this. This goes beyond what Diana has ever tasted like. This is bliss. Everything else she has ever tasted is nothing but a shallow imitation of life, but here and now it’s… it’s vibrant. Dazzling. Mesmerizing. It dances on her tongue and she knows with certainty that eclipses even witnessing the dissolution of the doll that her mother has changed. She is complete.
Celia loses some part of herself in the sensation of the blood on her tongue, and she finds, when she pulls away, that she’s both purring and crying, and it’s a crazy combination of things that flicker across her visage when she lifts her gaze to her mother’s face.
GM: Of course Celia knows.
The blood tells all.
Her mom looks maybe a little unsure what to make of Celia’s response, at first. But she smiles back and hugs Celia against her chest.
“Looks like someone enjoyed that,” remarks Emily.
Celia: “It’s amazing,” Celia murmurs, tucking herself against her mother as if she can’t bear to be away from her. “You just… it tastes… it’s like love, Momma, but… but different than before, different now that you’re you again.”
“People taste differently,” she says for Emily’s benefit, “depending on a lot of things. Mood is one of them. And this… food doesn’t compare. Nothing compares.”
GM: Diana hugs her daughter close and strokes her hair. The woman looks a little drowsy, between the blood loss and the late hour, and content to while away the night just holding her fed and happy child. So many times, she’s said Celia and her siblings “will always be my babies.”
“I thought it seemed predatory, at first,” says Emily. “But… honestly, you both look happy here.”
“Want me to take a picture?”
Celia: “You can. Let me know. I have to turn off my… glamour.”
GM: “Sure, sweetie,” murmurs Diana.
Emily retrieves her phone and snaps a couple pictures.
Celia: “Look at the photos.”
“Now take it again.”
GM: Emil looks at them.
“You didn’t need to tell me that second part.”
“These are shit photos.”
Celia: Celia laughs.
“We don’t come out right in pictures or video.”
GM: She holds up her phone and snaps a couple more.
Celia: This time, Celia makes sure she can show up properly.
GM: “Oh, yeah, these are way better.”
Celia: “Can you delete the other ones? Bit of a giveaway as to what I am.”
There’s some taps from Emily’s phone.
“So, how does that work, exactly?”
“The not coming out right?”
Celia: “Thanks. To address your earlier concern, feeding can be predatory. And violent. And—oh. There are things that are just off about us. Our faces don’t come out right. Some of us don’t have reflections. Some of us can’t use technology. It’s just… the Beast, I guess.”
“But,” she says, “let’s look at your memory from that day and night, yeah? Do you want to lie down? I’m going to have to touch you.”
GM: Emily gets a grimmer look.
“All right. You’re probably getting sore on the floor anyway, Mom.”
“Mm, a bit,” Diana yawns.
Her expression sharpens, though, as conversation returns to the prior subject.
“I want to know if someone’s been feeding on you, too.”
Emily just nods and lies down on couch.
“Is this like a massage? Is it better with my clothes off?”
Celia: “It is massage, yes. I can do it through the clothes, or you can take it off if you want.”
GM: “Who the fuck gets massages with their clothes on?” asks Emily, pulling off her t-shirt. She’s wearing the same clothes she had on for the dinner with Maxen, which rather shows how much she felt like dressing up for that.
Celia: “Chair massage,” Celia says with a shrug. She takes a spot next to the couch and has Emily lie on her stomach, unhooking the back of her bra for her but not taking it off.
Then she begins.
Her hands glide down Emily’s body from the back of her neck to her tailbone, pressure soft as she warms the muscles. A lot of her clients like how warm her hands get, they say, and it’s a combination of her synthetic body heat and their own muscles literally becoming more pliable the longer she works on them. She presses with the heel of her hand and pushes it down one side of the spine, echoing the movement with her other hand, gliding from top to bottom. She’s quiet as she works, settling into the rhythm of Emily’s body, searching for the connection between them while her hands stroke and knead. She finds tension and releases it with a gentle push, working her will upon body and soul—
And just like that, the tether tugs. The body opens before her, letting her see inside, past the prison of flesh and blood to the spinning disks of colored light. She closes her eyes and dives inside, merging their energies.
Slowly, shapes take form around her. Emily’s will isn’t broken, just bent, and her natural mindscape appears as a medical office. The sharpness of her thoughts is present in the scalpels and syringes, her iron will evident in the solid structures of the space. Celia knows better than to root around unnecessarily. She opens a window, letting the soft glow of moonlight pour inside, and with it comes the fragrance of what she brings. Lilies, roses, honeysuckle—the scent fills the room, tendrils of green creeping across the steel exam table to carpet it in soft moss so that when Celia sits upon it, like a patient waiting for her doctor, she’s comforted by her own being. A vase of wildflowers springs from the counter. Posters of felines play with string on the walls.
And there, the opening door as Emily joins her, clad in a white lab coat. Still methodical, even here.
“Hello, Emi,” Celia says quietly, welcoming the girl into the room with her. “It’s very comfortable here. Do you see how well we merge?” She smiles, kicking her feet on the exam table like a child. There’s nothing to fear from her, that movement says, she’s not an invader. Just a friend, willing to play by the rules of engagement that Emily’s consciousness set for her.
“October,” she murmurs, aloud and in the mind, “symptoms were general grogginess, lethargy, and marks upon the skin. Can you show me? The marks?”
GM: Emily looks around. Looks down at her coat. The expression on her face is somewhat out of place on the woman in the doctor’s role.
“This… is something,” she says.
“But yeah, we do. This is a nice office. Flowers and cats really bring it to life.”
“Am I dreaming?”
Celia: “Similar. The connection of our body and energy allows me to slip into your mind, somewhat. You’ll remember this, but it mimics the zen-like meditative state that a lot of people reach during massage.”
GM: “I can’t believe I didn’t know about this. All of this.”
Celia: “It makes you more, ah, pliable. As your muscles relax, so does your mind. It lets me find answers to things. You’re not resisting, so it’s easier for us to communicate.”
GM: “I have so, so many questions.”
She gives a faint grimace.
“But we’re here for something specific, aren’t we.”
Celia: “Yes. The night someone fed from you. October.”
GM: “Right. The marks.”
Emily’s brow furrows.
“No, there weren’t marks. I had blisters. On my feet.”
Celia: “As if you’d been burned?”
“Or walked a long time?”
GM: “Latter. And I wear comfortable, sturdy shoes.”
“Most of the time, anyways.”
Celia: “You may have been taken somewhere and made to walk. Or, more likely, put into uncomfortable shoes for something.” Like a party. Had someone forced her to become a vessel? Not at the Evergreen, she would have surely seen her that night. Weeknight, too. “Who put the shoes on you, Emi?”
GM: Emily rubs her head.
“Geez. They were really bad blisters.”
“The shoes didn’t fit.”
“And I was on my feet all night.”
Celia: “Do you remember what you did? The sounds around you? Smells? Faces?”
GM: “I wouldn’t have done that, I wouldn’t have put them on, I wouldn’t let someone put them on me, I wouldn’t have fucked off on a weeknight when I was supposed to be studying.”
Emily rubs her head some more.
“I… I wasn’t alone.”
“There was… music?”
“People. Other people.”
“Some of them like, like me.”
“No one complained, no one said anything.”
“Why the fuck did no one say anything?”
Her hands are starting to tremble.
Celia: “It’s a form of mind control, Emi. We’re breaking through it, so you remember. If the anger helps, feel it. Let it fuel you. Let it chip away at what you remember, bit by bit. Pull back the veil.”
GM: Emily clamps a hand over her mouth.
“Oh. Oh god. He’s killing him! Celia, he’s KILLING him!”
Emily rips off Celia’s shirt. The flesh beneath is black and blue and purple, hideously beaten. She can’t begin to guess how many ribs are cracked. She doesn’t have breasts, either, but a man’s flat and hairy chest. Her mother screams in her ears, voice raw with a parent’s terror for their children, but her voice is a man’s voice, and instead of Celia’s name, she screams—
Celia: She sees it play out as Emily had: the party. The ill-fitting attire. The too-tight shoes. They pinch her feet with every step that she takes, biting into her toes and heels. It’s difficult to walk, even to keep up with the boy-faced mobster that holds her hand. He gives her away to a familiar blonde. Malveaux-Devillers.
This is it. This is the party she and Reynaldo had talked about, where the hound—
The sickening thud of a cane on flesh makes her (undead?) stomach churn. The blood touches her nose and she wants to retch, but she can’t move, she’s caught, held tight by Malveaux-Devillers while she’s forced to watch—to watch—
“…killing him,” she echoes, “he’s KILLING him!”
Horror fills her. She’d drop to her knees if she were not forced to stand and watch while the son and father are beaten slowly, inexorably, to death. And the predators watch. The monsters all watch, staring—something, there’s something in their eyes, she’d seen it earlier—
It’s gone once feeding time begins. Hungry sharks circle the other girls like her, snatching them up to clamp down on, shoving their teeth inside neck and arm and leg and—bliss, isn’t it, that’s what’s on their faces, ensorcelled by the kiss—
A face in front of her. Familiar. Dark hair. So young. Haughty. Sneering. She knows—doesn’t she know? Celia knows. Celia, stuck inside, trapped inside the body, watches Isabel feed on Emily, breath catching in the soft sigh of a vessel. She drinks deeply. Celia sees resentment on her face, anger in her eyes. This isn’t her fare. This isn’t her fare but she knows Emily, knows Emily is Celia’s friend, knows Emily was meant for Caroline, and she hates them both, those bitches, that backstabbing cunt—
The office. Words. Agreements. Celia, through Emily’s eyes and ears, watches them hash it out. Familiar names. The Krewe. Mabel. Who is, doesn’t she have..?
But it loops. She’s back to the casino floor, Paul, not… no, please, double, triple, I’ll pay you back, I’ll—
Everything goes black around her. Celia falls through open sky, dress fluttering and wind whipping at her hair. She lands on her back on a hard table, eyes wide, staring up at a doctor slamming her chest again, again, again, trying to make her live, trying to bring her back, pleading with God, with the monster, with whoever will listen—
Not my boy, not my boy!
Sobbing, on her knees, face red with blood—
Bones break. Splatter. Her lips split and she spits out teeth but she’s sinking anyway, choking on her own blood, drowning—
“Stop. Come back. Come back to me. You’re you. You’re Emily, I’m Celia. I’m Celia, you’re Emily. You’re safe.”
But the voice isn’t hers. The face isn’t hers. It’s the other one, the stronger one, and Celia’s a little girl again reaching for a hand to hold.
“I’ll protect you,” the voice promises, “just let me in, let me in so I can help…"
So she does. She opens herself to this other being, skin stretching as it slips inside. It centers her. Grounds her. She watches from behind its eyes as she murmurs softly to Emily, stealing the onslaught of emotion from her—
“You’re safe. Safe, darling, you’re safe. It’s a dream. A bad dream, and it can’t hurt you here. You’re with your sister, you’re with your mother, you’re lying on a couch, it’s just a dream, just a dream…"
Bit by bit the darkness recedes. Moonlight touches down upon the two girls, bringing their surroundings into focus. No longer a doctor’s office but a wooded glade, soft moss beneath their toes, flowers dancing in the wind, a brook babbling merrily as it delivers life to the plants.
Safe, the trees tell her. Safe, the wind agrees. Safe, whispers the petals that kiss her skin.
“Come back to the room now, darling, come back to us. Dig your toes into the earth. There, do you feel it? Wiggle them. That’s nature. Life. That’s what you are, you know. Life. Breathe it in.”
The girl takes a breath. Crisp, airy aromas dance through her mind, centering and calming. Lavender, she recognizes that, everyone uses it for relaxation. Its fragrant, floral scent acts as buffer against the rest of the world. Beyond it, wood and pine and sap, the moist scent of wet earth. Birdsong flutters through her ears, the sound whimsical and light. A cat meows, streaking through the grass in front of her and a little blonde-haired girl gives chase, calling for the kitty to come back.
“Do you see? You bring them all to life.”
So she does. Flowers bloom with a thought. A robin, red as Diana’s cherry pie, swoops past her head. She can all but taste the sugar upon her tongue at the thought, the memory of flaky pie crust melting in her mouth, the warmth of family around a dinner table.
“No one can hurt you here,” the voice promises. A cat rubs against her shins. The little girl holds out her hand. She looks like Lucy, but… different. No glasses. Untamed hair. Beautiful, even for a child. She smiles and shows off two dimples in her cheeks.
“Come back to the room now, darling. Take her hand and let her lead you. That is not earth beneath your feet, that is the couch. Let the weight of it support you, cradle you, like a mother’s love. Those are her arms around you. Her warmth on your skin. That is love in her eyes, in her touch, in her very way of being. Come back to her. To us. Come back to you.”
GM: Emily may have dissected cadavers, but she told Celia and Diana over dinner how that was one of the most somber and emotional experiences of her life. They call them ‘donors’ at med school. People who have chosen to bequeath their remains to science. The first-year medical students treat them with deep respect and often develop bonds with them. They are the students’ teachers and first patients. There are memorial ceremonies where the students get to talk to the donors’ families, and to still-living people who’ve decided to become future donors. Emily said she’d cried a few times, after talking to Leo’s (that was his name) wife and adult son, and thinking about how he freely gave her his body so that she could learn medicine. “I felt like this total stranger had given me such a gift,” she’d said. It’s not an uncommon sentiment among the medical students. The cadaver dissections teach compassion and respect for life as well as anatomical knowledge.
Emily may be no stranger to the dead. She knows them literally inside and out.
But death is another matter.
She watches Rocco’s ghoul beat a screaming and pleading father and son to death for a silent crowd’s sick entertainment.
Celia’s sister promptly turns and vomits.
She purges it all out. Her horror. Her disgust. Her anger. Her shock. Her violation. Her humiliation. Her moral outrage. And, yes, her terror, as she realizes what this life is, what the dangers are, sees them as so much more than mere words and warnings. Perhaps too much more. She heaves and heaves until orange-tinged spittle is all that comes out, but this sickness does not reside in the contents of her stomach alone, oh no. This sickness cannot be purged so easily. She clutches her head as if to staunch the bleeding of her psyche, to stop the precious outflow of whatever has been lost to Rocco’s many inflicted traumas, buried and left to fester beneath his commands to forget, and then ripped open again here.
But though her psyche bleeds, it does not fall her. Celia senses anger brewing within Emily, far more than fear or violation. Hot and furious and rising. A pissed-off rant to end all rants is forming on her tongue, and Jade feels Celia’s adopted sister fighting her mental influence every step of the way, fighting to hold onto that bubbling fury. But she is still so new to this existence. To the truths of the world. Jade’s influence settles upon her like a heavy snowfall, slow but inevitable, and her features settle. Calmness overtakes them. She breathes and takes in the relaxing floral scents, the trees, the lapping water, the moss beneath her feet. The Tranquility Room if it could have an indoor garden.
“Okay,” she calmly answers Jade.
She takes the child’s offered hand.
“Let’s go back.”
Celia: The child’s hand is warm. It fits snugly in Emily’s, and the cat meows up at them as it falls into step between the pair, winding its way between their legs. Underfoot but not a nuisance, it offers what comfort it can with its tiny furry body.
“You’re angry,” the child says. The other woman trails behind them, silent but watchful. “Do you want it back, the inferno inside of you?”
GM: “Yes,” Emily answers without inflection.
Celia: She only nods.
And then it’s gone, the dam holding back the river, and Emily’s anger can be unleashed to the world. Wind howls. Violent branches whip through the air, snarling their rage to a sky red with blood.
Beside her, the girl is still, weathering the storm. The cat sits between her feet but it, too, is still. Only the other woman moves, the woman with the devastatingly beautiful features, the woman whose jade eyes shine with a maelstrom of their own. She walks through the storm, untouched by its wrath, and stands beside her sister.
She only nods.
And then it’s gone, the dam holding back the river, and Emily’s anger can be unleashed to the world. Wind howls. Violent branches whip through the air, snarling their rage to a sky red with blood.
Beside her, the girl is still, weathering the storm. The cat sits between her feet but it, too, is still. Only the other woman moves, the woman with the devastatingly beautiful features, the woman whose jade eyes shine with a maelstrom of their own. She walks through the storm, untouched by its wrath, and stands beside her sister.
GM: And then they’re not standing at all, but back on the couch at Diana’s house. The stink of vomit fills Celia’s nostrils. Diana has a mostly empty bucket, washcloth, and rags, and looks like she’s wiped as much of Emily and the couch clean as she can. She’s placed a washcloth under her daughter’s head. Still, it’ll take a shower and laundry cycle to fully banish the stink and dark stains. She’s watching both of her daughters concernedly.
Emily groans and rubs her head.
“Sweetie? What happened?” her mom asks.
Celia: “Bad,” one of the girls says, whoever is currently in charge, eyes alight in anger and jaw clenched tightly. The word is no more than a hiss.
GM: “He murdered them,” says Emily. “He murdered two people in cold blood, while the room watched, while I was dressed like a whore, and while Isabel fed on me.”
“What!?” exclaims Diana.
“Isabel is a vampire, Mom. She drank my blood. It’s that simple.”
Celia: “Agnello. The hound. He had a party. He brought vessels. He wanted to feel big, so he made them all watch. The ghoul killed the son while the father watched. Beaten to death with a cane. And then the Kindred fed.”
GM: “Isabel is a vampire?” repeats Diana, looking between the two.
Celia: “No,” she says softly, and it’s Celia looking out from her eyes now. “She was a vampire.”
GM: Both women look towards her.
Oh, God. She did this. She did this, and she’s going to make it worse.
“She’s not… she… Mom, she…”
Celia blinks it back. It’s not her trauma. It’s not her pain. It’s not her place to feel it, not when she did it.
“She didn’t make it,” Celia finishes in a whisper.
GM: “What do you mean, she didn’t make it?” demands Diana.
Celia: “She’s dead.”
GM: Her mother’s face goes absolutely still. Like a light clicked off behind her eyes.
Celia: “I—I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Momma, I’m so sorry, I—”
She what? She what? What can she offer here? What can she say? Nothing. Nothing at all. She’d ripped out her own sister’s heart and now she’s watching the effects of that death rip through her mother.
Black hole. He’d said it. Here’s the proof. She’d brought her world to her family’s door and sucked them into the darkness, too.
GM: There’s a shrill, wailing scream from Diana as she clutches her head.
Celia: Celia’s face crumples. She reaches for her mother. Reaches, despite the blood on her hands. Reaches, knowing she’d done this. Reaches, because she doesn’t know how else to help, because she doesn’t know what else to do, because she’s ruined it, ruined her, ruined her family, broken them apart; she could have lied, should have lied—
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry—” The words aren’t even audible above the scream.
GM: Diana doesn’t look at her. She doesn’t look at Emily, who’s touching her too, saying useless things. The scream tapers off into a raggedy, shuddering inhalation of breath.
And then, finally, inevitably, thick-falling tears amidst smaller shudders.
They’re a common enough sight from Celia’s mother, perhaps. Jade was annoyed enough over the frequency of that tearful blubbering to beat the ghoul for them.
But this time, Celia’s mother looks up from her hands. The tears still flow, but her gaze feels as unblinking as any vampire’s and sharp as any of their kind’s fangs as it bores into Celia’s.
“How?” she demands. “What killed my daughter?”
Celia: Celia almost flinches at the sight. She stares, caught by her mother’s gaze, and her ability to spin a tale out of truth unravels around her. She blinks once, twice, again, and then she can’t stop the outpour of emotion, she can’t stop the red leaking down her cheeks, can’t stop the way her body curls in on itself in the face of a mother’s grief. She presses her hands to her face, covering her shame, hiding from her mother, hiding from Emily, hiding from the world because she did this. She murdered her own sister.
She sobs into her hands. It’s messy, a human display of rage and grief and shame and guilt and regret, and it’s all there on there face, plain as day.
“M-me,” she stutters out, “me, me, it was me, it was—it was my fault, it was—she c-came, she came for-for help and the-they j-jumped me an-and they—they took her, they took her, they—”
“I wa-I was su-suppos-supposed t-to k-keep her safe and, and, and they—they took, they took her, they took her, they took her from me—I got, it was, it was me—it was my fault, my fault—”
It comes out in fits and starts, the doctored story of Isabel’s death. How she had shown up at the spa torn to bloody shreds. How she’d been looking for her boyfriend and thought she found the person who killed him. How that person had slaughtered her entire krewe. Isabel had been physically destroyed: bloody, body slashed open, missing pieces of her face and skin. Celia didn’t have enough blood on hand to fix her. She hadn’t had enough to mend the pain. So she’d put her in the safe room and gone out to find food.
Only she’d been followed. Jumped. She’d been heating the blood for Isabel in the microwave when they grabbed her. The hunters she’d already mentioned.
GM: Celia’s mother doesn’t once look away. She stares directly into Celia’s eyes, hands rested over her knees, and listens. She listens like she looks like she has never listened in all of her life, as the lies drip from Celia’s lips like slow-flowing honey. Her mother’s tears come slower amidst the steady rise and fall of her chest. There is something dark in her eyes that reminds Celia very much of Henry.
She listens, and then she repeats, her voice heavy as the thud of a collapsed ballerina:
“What killed my daughter?”
Celia: “The scourge,” Celia finally whispers, “or her childe.”
GM: “HOW!” Diana snaps, bringing her hand down on her knee with a loud smack. Her face is red and her breath is coming hard and ragged.
Celia: “They broke into the spa,” Celia says in a quiet voice. “The door was already open because of the hunters. Because I was sloppy. I was going to fix her, I was going to fix it… they tracked her. They got in. They…” Celia closes her eyes, as if pained by the memory.
Maybe she is.
“Her heart was ripped out.”
GM: The couch suddenly bursts into flame. Terror incarnate fills Celia’s Beast as the air turns hot and the fire crackles.
Celia: Celia’s reflexes rip her backwards before she even has time to think, scrambling away from the source of her terror. She’s there one moment and gone the next, disappearing around the corner to the kitchen where she and her Beast cannot see the flames lick at the couch.
GM: “Oh my god!” shouts Emily.
BREEPBREEPBREEPBREEPBREEPBREEPBREEPBREEPBREEPBREEP…! screams the smoke alarm.
Emily and Diana all but throw themselves off the couch as the fire spreads and smoke rises.
Celia: There’s a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Emily used to tease her mom about not needing it because she’d never burn anything, but Celia was always secretly glad of its presence. She finds it and screams for Emily.
GM: Emily barrels in, grabs the fire extinguisher, and barrels back out. There’s the whoosh of released monoammonium phosphate, and then silence but for the screaming smoke alarm.
Celia: Celia is quick to find a chair and pull the batteries from it to silence it.
GM: But Celia is not alone inside the hallway.
Someone else is there.
Of course she’s there.
Lucy is standing in the hallway, barefoot and wearing her glasses and nightie, hands pressed against the corner of the wall.
Like all kids do.
Like Celia did.
Like Isabel did.
Like big sister, like little sister.
Like littlest sister.
Celia: “Oh, Luce. Oh no, Luce.” Celia crouches down in front of her, panic at bay now that the fire has gone out and the alarm has stopped shrieking in her ear.
A new sort of desperate panic takes place of the Beast’s terror though, and this one is all human. How much had she heard?
She remembers snooping. The monster shaking her father’s hand. Drowning when it spotted her. Cold. So, so cold.
“Lucy,” Celia whispers, reaching out to pull the child towards her. “Lucy, oh Lucy…”
Oh Lucy, what have you done?
GM: Lucy doesn’t jump out of her skin. Celia can’t see that happening to her eight-year-old self. No. She’s pretty sure she just froze, when he saw her.
Lucy freezes too, like a deer in headlights, dumbly unresisting as Celia pulls her close.
She doesn’t say anything. Just stares at Celia with wide eyes.
Celia: “It’s okay, baby.”
She is different. She’s a monster, but not… not that kind of monster. She pulls Lucy into her arms and rises, holding her fast.
“It’s okay, sweetie. It’s all okay.”
GM: The six-year-old starts crying against Celia’s chest.
Celia: “Just a dream, sweetie. It’s all…”
She can’t. She can’t. She needs to, needs to say the words, convince her that nothing happened, that it’s all in her head…
we love you very much
…but how had that worked out for her?
Celia presses her back against the wall, tears leaking down her face as she slowly sinks to the floor with Lucy on her lap.
“It’s okay,” she murmurs, “it’s okay, I promise you, everything is okay.”
“I love you so much, Lucy-Goose, you know that, right? That I love you? That we all—we all love you, baby. It’s okay. I’m here. I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise.”
GM: The child just clings to Celia, head buried against her chest. Her sniffs are lighter and softer than their mother’s.
Celia: Celia cradles her close, listening to her cry. Listening to her mother’s wail. Listening to Emily vomit all the contents of her stomach onto the floor.
Like another night. A ravaged scream. The smell of blood in the hallway.
She did this.
She did it.
She caused all of these things because she couldn’t leave her family alone.
This is why they don’t have families. This is why… this is why they don’t stay connected with the mortals of their old lives. Why they sever ties.
Black hole, he said, and he’s right.
“I’m sorry,” she says to Lucy. “I’m so sorry, I nev—I never wanted…”
She needs to go. She needs to cut herself from their lives like the tumor that she is.
GM: Lucy just sniffles more and clings to Celia.
Two pairs of footsteps round the hallway.
“Oh, sh…” Emily starts, censoring herself in the child’s presence.
Diana kneels down and scoops the crying child into her arms.
Celia: That, maybe, hurts worse than the rest.
She what? She wasn’t going to hurt her? Of course she wasn’t.
GM: Celia’s mother doesn’t seem to see her. Or Emily. She cradles the crying girl against her chest, strokes her hair, and starts to sing.
“Hush, little baby don’t say a word
Mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird
And if that mocking bird don’t sing
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring…”
Diana’s voice is soft and low as she sings. Her eyes are red and puffy from crying. Her features are very still. Very tired. There’s a shadow over them, like Celia is seeing her outside at night. A night of spirit so much like Henry’s. Celia cannot say when dawn will rise.
“And if that diamond ring is brass
Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass
And if that looking glass gets broke
Mama’s gonna buy you a billy goat…”
She starts to walk down the hall towards Lucy’s bedroom.
Celia: Celia rises to her feet. Were she anything other than an undead monster, she might sway where she stands. Now, though, her body is still, heart nothing but a rock in her chest.
She did this.
It’s too much to unpack for one night. Too much for her to even begin to know how to deal with it. She needs time to think, to plan, to figure out how she’s going to fix this before everything else comes spiraling down around her.
She can’t stay in their lives. She’s nothing but danger to them. Not only because of others like her but because of she herself. What would have happened if she’d lost control during the fire? If she’d been slightly more peckish when her mom opened a vein? She’d gone digging for answers because of her stupid curiosity and now her mother is… is the walking dead, a shell of a person. Isabel. Randy. The girl at the Evergreen. The girl in the spa. All of the hunters. How many? How many has she killed? How much blood is on her hands?
How will it ever come out?
GM: Celia’s only answer is silence.
Total silence, but for Lucy’s sniffles.
Emily opens the door. Diana carries Lucy into the dark room. The bunny nightlight glows in the corner. The glow-in-the-dark stars with their smiley faces glow from above. Diana lies down on Lucy’s bed, holding the child against her in spoon position, arms wrapped around her chest, and sings for a while.
“And if that billy goat don’t pull
Mama’s gonna buy you a cart and bull
And if that cart and bull turn over
Mama’s gonna buy you a dog called Rover
And if that dog called Rover don’t bark
Mama’s gonna buy you a horse and cart…”
Lucy’s sniffs taper off as the girl drifts into sleep.
Diana closes her eyes and just holds her.
Emily looks towards Celia.
“Think we should let her sleep?” she whispers.
Celia: “She saw too much,” Celia says quietly. “She saw too much, just… just too much.”
GM: “Which one?” murmurs Emily.
Celia: “Lucy. And Mom. And… and you.”
GM: “I think we should let them sleep,” says Emily, nodding towards the hall.
Celia: Celia steps out, retreating down the hall to the living room where she doesn’t have to look at the evidence of what she’s done.
GM: “Geez,” says Emily.
“Did Lucy overhear?”
Celia: “Yeah, Em, I’d assume so.”
GM: “Sorry, dumb question. I guess, how much?”
Celia: “Anything is too much. She can’t remember this. Any of it. She’s a kid, she shouldn’t—she shouldn’t have to deal with this.”
GM: “Yeah. She’s way too young for this,” Emily nods.
“But all right. She’s a kid. Active imagination. We can tell her… we can explain this away.”
“She’ll forget it eventually.”
Celia: “No. I need to call someone.”
GM: “How much do you remember from first grade?”
“But okay, to do what?”
Celia: “I remember my first vampire. I was eight.”
“And it fucked me up for life.”
“She’s not going to go through that.”
GM: “…wait, I thought you became one in 2009?”
Celia: “Yeah. And I was groomed for it since childhood, apparently.”
GM: “Okay, that’s clearly a long story, but Lucy first. I think anyone outside the family unit is just gonna upset her right now.”
Celia: Celia shakes her head. “I need to borrow your phone.”
GM: Emily unlocks and hands it over.
Celia: Celia dials a number. She pretends she doesn’t have it memorized, but she’s lying to herself.
And when the voice picks up on the other end, Celia speaks quietly into the receiver.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
Support: Celia knows the fatigue in that voice is false.
Celia: “Hi, no, it’s… it’s Celia.”
“I’m… I’m sorry to bother you, but I… I need a favor. Please.”
Support: “Last few people I did favors for didn’t end up so well,” Caroline observes icily.
Celia: There’s an intake of breath on the other end of the line. Celia had not expected that answer… to her detriment. Stupid, isn’t it, calling Caroline when she has other friends in the Quarter. Friends she doesn’t trust anymore. Friends who she doesn’t want to know about her mother. And the one who already does, the one she’d thought about calling, the one whose ghoul owes her a favor that she could have called in… well, his sire had turned her in for infernalism and sentenced her to burn.
But Caroline knows her, doesn’t she. Knows who she is, whose childe, how she feels for him, how he’s hurt her, her family. Knows, too, how to keep a mortal family for all that it’s only been six months.
Stupid though. Really stupid.
“Okay,” she says quietly. “That’s—okay, yeah, this was probably a bad idea.”
Support: “Probably,” she agrees.
There’s a beat.
“What’s the favor?”
Celia: Celia steps away from Emily, lowering her voice. She searches for a way to explain over the phone without sounding too desperate.
GM: Emily walks after her.
Clearly not content to be cut out of the loop.
Celia: Celia shakes her head and stops moving.
“Remember when I came over, and my mom saw you and May, but she thought it was the two of us, and it was all real awkward and we had to explain it? It’s kinda like one of those.”
Support: “You think it’s a misunderstanding I could help clear up with someone else for you?” Caroline muses.
“You know it’s a lot harder if you’ve let those sorts of things fester. This a recent thing?”
This is a bad idea.
“Very recent. Just now, actually. I thought maybe we could clear the air before things got too out of hand.”
Support: There’s silence for a moment.
“I’m make you the same deal I make all my friends when these things happen. Bring over some drinks and we’ll sit down with your friend, talk it out, see if we can’t resolve it.”
Celia: Fuck. She’d been afraid of that.
“Right. Ah. Problem is, I’m with my daughter tonight, and it’s a little past her bedtime.”
Support: “Meaning drinks are off the table, or meaning you want a house call?” Caroline asks.
Celia: “Was hoping for a house call. But if you can’t make it tonight, I understand.”
Celia wouldn’t blame her. But she’s not sure that moving her mother and Lucy right now is the best idea. She’s not even sure that bringing her mother into this is the best idea, or if she should just let her sleep.
“Can you—one sec.” She presses her hand over the mic on the phone, looking to Emily.
“If I take Lucy, can you stay with Mom so she doesn’t freak out?”
Terrible, terrible idea. She’d just learned that she’d lost a kid, and here Celia is trying to take Lucy away in the middle of the night. She needs someone local.
GM: “Uh, where do you want to take her?” asks Emily slowly.
Celia: “CBD. To a… friend. Erase the memories.”
GM: “Oookay, I guess if that’s a thing, that’s a thing,” says Emily.
“Pretty sure the only way Mom is not freaking out is if she doesn’t wake up.”
“Why not just take them both to the CBD?”
“Or get this friend to make a house call?”
Celia: “Because Mom just set the couch on fire with her brain.”
GM: “Wait, what?”
Celia: “The—hold on.” She turns back to the phone. “Ah, I don’t have a sitter. If you can’t make it it’s no big, I can probably find a local.”
GM: “Look, I’d just take them both,” says Emily. “There is no way Mom is letting Lucy go right now in the middle of the night.”
Support: “It’s a little late for me to go out. Plus, you know how I feel about that side of town.”
“If a local is a better fit, I won’t take it personally.”
GM: “Though I guess, fuck, if you wanna pitch the idea to her, can’t hurt.”
“All I know is Mom waking up in the middle of the night with Lucy gone is not ending well.”
Celia: “You at home? I’ll make it work and call you if I can’t.”
Support: “Call ahead if you decide. I’ll be around.”
Celia: “I will. Thank you.”
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
Celia: Celia hangs up, takes half a second to remove the recent call from Emily’s call history, and hands the phone back.
GM: “All right, so?” she asks.
Celia: “So I don’t want to wake Mom up, mostly, and the friend can’t come into the Quarter right now. I’m meeting someone later that might be able to do it, but he’s… ah, dangerous. I guess if I could get… no, I don’t want him to know, he’ll… fuck, maybe the… but his sire… and Gramps wouldn’t… fuck, fuck, fuck, I’m fucked, I’m so fucked—”
Desperately, she goes through the list of anyone and everyone that might be able to help. Lebeaux. Tantal. Mel. Savoy. Gui. Even Preston crosses her mind, but the thought is dismissed as quickly as it comes. So are the rest of them, sire included. No doubt he’d find a way to hurt her for the lesson. She lingers on the idea of Duquette for a moment. Roderick had said she’d deleted his family’s memories, and she knows who Celia is, but…
She doesn’t want to owe her, doesn’t want anyone else getting wind of this clusterfuck.
GM: “Look, do we need an outside friend for this?” asks Emily. “If you never saw your vampire again after eight, would you still believe in them?”
“If we need to wake up Mom though, let’s wake her up. She’d want to do whatever’s best for Lucy.”
Celia: “That’s the problem,” Celia says tightly. “Me. I’m the problem. You see? How many times did you see weird things and try to explain it to yourself? Now imagine if you had a dream from when you were a child that monsters are real and things continued to not add up. You’d start to wonder, right? And when you saw him again as a teenager you couldn’t quite dismiss it, even though he tried to make you, so when you ran into them again during college—boom, suddenly you’re dead and ruining other people’s lives too.”
GM: Emily raises her hands. “All right, I’ll take your word for it. You lived it. Died it.”
Celia: “I just… I can’t be around you guys anymore, Em, that’s what this comes down to, doesn’t it? I have to go. I can’t stay. I can’t… I got careless, sloppy, lost control, and I just…” She puts her head in her hands, fingers pulling at the roots of her hair in frustration. “I just keep hurting everyone, and I’m not trying to make this about poor me because, fuck, I’m an asshole too, but god damn do I wish… I wish I could just… undo everything, take it all back, go back a week, two, maybe even a month, and just… not be such a fuckup.”
GM: “Wait, what?” says Emily. “Okay, couple things.”
“First, you’re why I’m here and have a mom.”
“You’re why Mom is here and not in that shithole with ODing junkies in the shared bathroom.”
“You’re also why mom is her new, old, whatever, self. She told me about that.”
“Fuck, if you hadn’t pushed her there, she’d probably be literally in bed with Maxen now.”
Celia: “No, Emi, he was right. I’m a black hole. I ruin everything I touch.”
GM: “I don’t think so.”
Celia: “Dad said so. My real dad. That there’s… God, how did he say it, poison in our blood or something.”
GM: “…when did you talk to him?”
Celia: Celia waves a hand.
“Years ago. He paid for esthi school.”
GM: “Geez, Celia, the personal revelations are tumbling out like, I don’t know, a metaphor about lots of stuff tumbling out.”
“He do that because he felt guilty over raping Mom?”
Celia: “I guess. He said he liked my story. He’s not… I mean, he’s never been a dad or anything, he was very clear on that.”
“But… yeah, there’s a lot I haven’t been able to talk about.”
GM: “Awesome, I’ll give him 9/10 on the nice rapist scale.”
Celia: Celia snorts.
“I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Nothing about how they met makes sense to me.”
GM: “Would ask to rape our mom again, if someone had to.”
“Geez, that’s a horrible joke.”
Celia: Emily isn’t listening to her. Celia doesn’t force the issue.
GM: “All right, well, maybe we should talk about your dad later. It sounds like there’s a ton of stuff to get caught up on.”
“It’s funny, I’d prepared a whole list of questions for us to ask you and topics to go over.”
“I don’t remember if I mentioned that.”
Celia: “You did. We got distracted.”
Celia looks down the hall to where her mother and Lucy are sleeping.
“Fuck it, what are you doing the rest of the night? Do you want to grab a drink? I have to meet someone at 3:30, but I’m… I’m not dealing with the rest of this shit tonight.”
GM: “Probably trying and failing to fall asleep and just lying awake digesting how everything I thought I knew about the world is wrong. Plus, you know, worrying myself sick over Mom and Lucy.”
“So, drink sounds good.”
Celia: “Sounds perfect. Let’s roll.”