It wasn't until I looked into her eyes that I realised that for
the first time… I'd really lost her.
People always used to ask me how I coped. It wasn't really a question with a straightforward answer; you could go one way or another about those kinds of things. The therapy sessions… the endless torture of being forced to endure a sweaty man with an unkempt moustache pressing on about my feelings. It was just a matter of time before I slipped. Before I screamed 'well how the fuck would you react if you lost your sister?' and grabbed the stupid little man that thought he knew me by the front of his shirt and spat in his face. I could just shake my head after that, laugh a little as if I hadn't done any harm and shrugged; 'think about it next time' I'd say… if I was brave enough.
Which I guess I wasn't.
Alice Reeve, that's the name I was given; the name of a normal child. I guess every way that I looked at it; I wasn't a normal kid. No matter how many times I showed my face to the public with a fake smile, nothing would spare me from the endless whispers. Alice Reeve, the sister of that one girl who gave it all away. That was the fear factor all over the world these days, the ones who give it all away.
Abigail. That was her name. Beautiful golden locks that fell down her face like an endless waterfall, the eyes of precious pearls staring out at the world as if for the first time. I wish that I could still say that her eyes were that beautiful pearl, that her fresh smile still sparkled on her face endlessly. She wasn't like that any more. In fact, I didn't even see her after that day.
That's when you choose.
Just a kid, not even classed as an adult. Not eighteen, not sixteen, seventeen. You meet in the middle. You're legal to do a lot of things. You can drive, you can have sex you can even smoke. But that's just not enough for some people.
Because… on your seventeenth birthday.
On everyone's seventeenth birthday. You're liable to make the choice.
The choice to end your life.
It's not in the way that you'd think. It's not a suicide pact; even through years of hardship and labour, countless recessions and evil Governments, we haven't reached the day we'd hand our lives over to death.
Again, we meet in the middle. It's not life any more, that's how we see it. On your seventeenth birthday you're given the choice to break free of the society that keeps you safe and move onto another one. A powerful society that has harnessed the humans in labour since the beginning of time, the ones that take up the cities and force us to live in the hovels underneath. They use us for their own personal gain; and what's so very ironic about the situation is that we can choose whether to escape the torture. To leave this world behind and join them in their sparkling city.
Of course, it comes with a price. Don't all great things do that? I have to at least tell myself that to get to sleep at night. Because, Abby wouldn't just leave without a reason. I had to be sure of that. It was all I could do to keep myself sane.
The price is something that not many people give up; something that stops the mind from instantly choosing the easy option to escape. When you turn seventeen, you can choose to stay in poverty and labour, or you can be stripped of your humanity instead.
"Humanity's overrated," I hear her say. That voice, ringing in my head like a constant church bell. A place she wouldn't be welcome in any more. She laughed like she was really thinking of the option.
I still remember my trembling voice, the feeling of my heart squeezing as if caught in a vice. She was actually considering it… Oh God, what had I done to deserve this of her?
"Y-You can't!" My voice was young, barely ten, just a child…
"Alice, you don't understand!" I'd been sat, cross-legged on my bed. On the many beds that surrounded us. I guess you could call our home a refuge of sorts; a place to escape the Unholy that tried to control us. We grouped up as families inside a church, St James' Church. Sacred ground. She'd been on the far side of the room, closest to the door, threatening to run down the stairs, spit on the alter and run out into the darkness and just scream I give up!
I could see the tears welling in her eyes. I remember my own, fresh and already spilling freely down my cheeks. I was shaking so hard I think I'd gone numb, completely frozen as I watched her helplessly.
She held out her arm, twisting her fingers together into a tight fist, "they took my friends Alice, they took them and drank from them right in front of me! How fucked up is that?"
"B-but," I remembered my brain hurting from the conversation. Surely, there were rules on this sort of thing. The unholy couldn't just drink from humans, the human had to be a liable donor, they had to sign their name on a document… it was supposed to be official.
"Shit goes down, Alice." Abigail reminded me, her eyelids that had been coated in eyeliner was now smudged over her face. She looked like a little blonde racoon. She was so confused. She'd turned away from me this time, grabbing her hair in massive clumps as she folded in on herself, letting out a strangled cry, "God!" she yelled, "Those things are so fucking corrupt. They just take the ones with nothing to lose, take 'em and eat 'em before they even get the chance to fucking choose!"
I'd already felt the comfort of my pillow as it pressed against my face. I forced myself not to listen. Abigail did this a lot. She'd scream about how corrupt stuff was, about the friends she'd lost… because we all had. People went missing all the time, and the ones who witnessed it were sworn to secrecy, because you couldn't fight them. You can't fight the almighty, the unholy and the undead.
I don't remember much of what happened after that. I was too young. My mind seemed to wipe me clean of my sister who had turned away from Humanity.
She had nothing left.
She was a wreck and she wanted more than anything to lose the emotion that was attached to that. She'd just walked out the day she turned seventeen. We hadn't even woken. She'd left early, before the sun had even risen. I should have seen it coming. But I didn't. None of us did, and there were a lot. We would stay on look-out for the Vampyres in case they walked on the filth of humanity for a quick bite. Whoever was watching never saw Abigail disappear. My sister, my dearest Abby…
The one that gave it all away.
That's how I found myself surrounded in darkness, sitting in a room with walls that stood strong around me. I could smell the scent of varnished wood; I could feel the material scrape against my arms each time I tried to turn. I closed my eyes. I couldn't do this any more. I was just the sister of that one girl…
"Forgive me Father for I have sinned." My throat felt sore as I spoke the words, looking up to the small engraved piece of metal that separated us. A confession booth. For some reason it felt so cliché. I shuddered to think I'd sunk this low, but stood my ground, shivering in the darkness.
"What are your confessions my child?" the voice of salvation… Father Peters, a man of forty five yet he'd aged in a way to look almost eighty. That's what this world did to you… aged you beyond recognition. All because of the Vampyres.
Get a grip, I instructed myself, taking in a deep breath. Father Peters was ever determined to cleanse us of our sins. It helped to remind us of the reasons we didn't make the choice. "I dreamt of Abigail again last night." I rasped, clinging onto the small wooden seat.
"That isn't a sin, Alice." I could tell that he was tired. It was most likely a long night. A night filled with the restless, the ones who dragged him out of bed and pleaded for him to cleanse them. Sins were all we had; no one was a do-gooder. We couldn't possibly be when living in a society corrupt by those things.
"It is." I reminded him, I could feel the guilt building up in my chest before I'd even spoken the words. I hated to say it. I hated it. But I knew my secrets were safe with him.
"She came to me."
"She can't come to you."
"She came to me." I had to remind him I wasn't finished. That I'd never be finished. "She wants me to change… I dreamt that, I dreamt that… that," Oh God, why was this so difficult? The sputum clung to my throat like an extra skin. I tried to clear it, but it didn't work. "that she turned me."
Father Peters was a man of God; but throughout the years of torment, he'd slowly begun to believe less and less. If Hell's creatures could live among Humans, drink from them, kill them and control them in every way, it'd be enough to turn anyone from the path of God. Still, he'd kept his faith. Enough to cleanse us, enough to make us feel safe. He blessed the church every night, just in case the sacred ground wasn't enough to keep them at bay. Then, he just sat in the confession booth and waited for the cries to come. Usually he'd say something at this point, anything… but the other side of the booth was painfully silent. I could feel the tears coming but suppressed them as long as I could. I had to be strong, the others in the church were reliant on that.
"You turn seventeen in two days."
I nodded, though I knew he couldn't see, "Yes."
"Your dreams are right to be filled with your fears, Alice. Don't fear that you are becoming like your sister." I heard him swallow, I heard him take his handkerchief from his pocket. Fabric against skin… wiping away the building sweat from his forehead. "These people may expect you to turn from the path of God, but you are not your sister."
I didn't see the point in this speech of his. We both knew that when I turned seventeen… the real dreams would begin. Vampyres had a psychic connection to the humans; some believed that they were even the Temptation come to Earth. On every seventeenth birthday, no matter who you were, no matter where you were… as soon as you gave your consciousness away, they'd find you. They'd tempt you. They'd call for you.
They'd use your family.
"Abigail is going to call for me." I stated, attempting to keep my vocals in check. I winced. It wasn't working.
There was another silence before I heard Father Peters clear his throat, "Are you keeping your weekly meetings with your therapist?"
I wrinkled my nose at the thought. Six years, almost seven, of meeting with that tiresome man. He tried to get me to talk but for every year I became harder and harder to speak with. I think he gave up in the end. He just began to ask me simple questions. How I was, what I was planning to do today, the day after next…
Collect food, buy new weapons at the black market, feed our Church and go to bed. That was what my life was made up of. We didn't have schools, not any more. People didn't bother turning up, especially when the Vampyres started making guest appearances.
I used to go.
Up until the age of twelve they would paint the schools with holy water and hang up crosses across the windows. We'd sit in classrooms of ten people and listen to a teacher drone on about knowledge that most of us would never need. Some of them had already chosen to give it up when they turned seventeen… Those children would take down the crosses, spit on the walls… invite the Vampyres in as if they were testing them, getting them ready for the shining world of Immortality.
We didn't even really know if they truly were immortal. We didn't care anymore. They outlived Humans and that was more important. They could go on for hundreds of years yet we withered and died. The children of God…dying at the hands of Hell.
I blinked, realising that Father Peters was waiting on a reply. How long had I been sitting here? How long had I left him waiting this time?
"You haven't, have you Alice?"
"I can't risk walking down three separate roads every week just to talk to him." I muttered, folding my arms, "we're the rebellion."
"The Unholy haven't made an attack since-"
"-Since they got Abby's friends, before they took her, I know." I'd barely realised that I'd raised my voice until I heard my own tone echo back at me from the enclosed space. I sucked in a breath and ducked my head low, "Sorry."
A final pause. I heard a rustle from the other side. Father Peters was exiting, so I did too.
We met on the outside, in the brilliant marble arch of the Church. The floors had been coated in a glaze of holy water, the walls hung high with crucifixes. Twenty pews stretched out from each side of the room, meeting on the far end to the magnificent wooden altar that stood on a large marble staircase. A chandelier hung from the ceiling, shining against the large arched window on the far wall. The evening sun stretched its rays against the floor, a dancing mixture of shadow and light encasing the beautiful holy ground.
I smiled and bowed to Father Peters, draped in his large black cloak. He bowed back, taking my hand in his. "Four Hail Marys." He instructed with a smile. "And one Our Father."
I nodded, gripping his warm hand in mine. "Thank you." I mumbled as I felt him rope an arm around my shoulders, guiding me out from the Church's main halls, upstairs to dress for the evening to come.