From what seemed an ages-long purgatorial dream, his vision — or his lack thereof — seemed to quickly transpose into a frame of blinding white light. He quickly tried to analyze his senses. Was there any sound, any shape, perhaps any smell or taste that could make him discover where he was?
Traces of sound, or at least his perception of sound, began to reach his brain. To his left, a repetitive vibration; to the right, the faintest of whistles.
He began to feel various aches and strains to his muscles, including a nagging burning sensation around his middle. He tried to look down to examine his body, but all he saw was the white screen of nothingness.
The sounds began to increase in volume. The guttural vibrations on his left had a distinct rhythm, going up slightly in pitch, then down. Still he couldn’t quite place the sound to its proper source. The whistling on his right, however, had transformed into more of a wind. Though he could feel no breeze against his face, he was sure he was hearing a ferocious gale.
He licked his lips in an attempt to gauge any tastes to assist him in his quest to determine his environment. There was no earthen sensation to tell him if he was indoors or out; there was a faint hint of iron on his taste buds, or something metallic… something almost antique in a way, as if he’d held a copper coin under his tongue momentarily.
The vibration to his left deepened and intensified yet again, and he became certain this was the sound of some type of wild animal, perhaps giving a warning growl. Panicked, he whirled to the left.
Or he thought he had done; there was no physical confirmation he had made any move at all. Only the borderless, white vista in front of him, the sounds of a hungry beast to his left, a storm of unknown proportions whirling to his right.
Where am I?
He strained to remember the last few moments before he apparently lost consciousness… but all he came up with was the realization that he couldn’t even remember his name.
Who am I?
He suddenly felt a short, hot breath against his left ear. It was most certainly an animal now, the pulsating, vibrating noise taking up almost all his attention. He could still hear wind, but still felt no wind.
The burning sensation against his waistline grew stronger, radiating up his arms and over his shoulders.
He blinked and, for the first time, began to see shadow and the faintest detail of depth. He was indoors. He was laying down, face pointed upward.
The sound of a door unlatching caused him to gasp, and with the sharp intake of air, the white light gave way to a brief snap of black. Blinking again, color and sharpness readjusted themselves in his vision.
He craned his neck to the left. Curled on the pillow next to his was indeed an animal. A cat. A young calico, tufts of gray, brown, white, gold and black dotted about its body, and an unusually thick and bushy tail. Its olive-colored eyes were staring at him, and it was purring. He understood immediately that was the noise he was hearing — an intensely sedate housecat.
The brief moment of joy in decoding that small mystery was replaced by the reminder that he was in a strange room with a door that had just opened, and now closed shut — which meant someone had to have just opened and closed it.
“Wh-who’s there,” he asked, his voice raspy and dry. He rubbed his eyes.
“Ah, he awakens.” The voice was instantly comforting to him, much to his confusion. Though he still couldn’t see perfectly, his hearing and smell were working aces. There was a man at the door, taking off what sounded like a thick woolen jacket; the man was also setting aside what sounded like a parcel or maybe a satchel of gear.
It smelled faintly of rain; and it was at this moment a chill met with his skin. He surmised that wherever he was, he was in the middle of a bad snowstorm, now realizing the whistling and howling noise to his right was a hefty wind trying to sneak in between the small gaps of wooden cabin walls.
Heavy leather boots met against creaky floorboards as the man approached his bedside, leaned forward, and switched off the white noise machine. “How do you feel?”
Head still swimming, senses still fine-tuning, he blinked. “Confused.” He was not in a cabin after all. The man wasn’t wearing a woolen jacket. He had black jeans and a black sweater. There had been no blizzard raging outside.
There wasn’t any way to tell what kind of weather there actually was; a long picture window opposite the bed was perfectly sealed by a metallic shutter.
The man nodded, gently sitting on the corner of the bed. The man was young, with almost boyish features: Dark brunette hair, a little ruffled, and soft blue eyes. “Do you remember who you are yet?”
Common sense should have told him this question was not normal, something of a red flag to a normal person undergoing this strange scenario. He could only shake his head.
There was a small understanding smile on the man’s face. He slowly pointed to his lips and said with an exaggerated whisper, “Hunter.”
There it was, plain as day. How could he forget his own damn name? What was going on?
He took in a sharp breath, and as he exhaled he remembered. “K… Kai?”
Kai looked relieved as Hunter said his name. “That’s right.”
A cat’s paw pressed into Hunter’s leg, its claws pricking his skin gently. It caused his muscles to twitch, and a sharp pain from his side made him double over. Startled, the cat dashed away.
“Oh, careful…” Kai said, reaching out for Hunter’s shoulder. Hunter was not sure if that gentle scolding was for him or for the cat.
“What happened?” Hunter said. “What’s… what’s going on?”
A concerned look fell over Kai’s face.
“You were… Someone attacked you.”
Kai shook his head. “That’s not important right now. But they hurt you pretty badly…”
As Kai explained, Hunter looked down and saw that he was bare-chested, except for a large amount of bandaging around his middle. There was more padding around the right side, and there was a dark circle of dried blood.
“…and you’re not fully healed yet. You’ll need at least one more feeding before the night’s over.”
Still not putting all the pieces together, Hunter looked at Kai with a puzzled look on his face.
“You were near death, Hunter…” Kai looked ashen and pale as he gathered the words. “I had to turn you.”
“I didn’t have a choice. I simply could not bear to watch you die. Please forgive me…”
The dizziness began to return as Kai’s words sank in and the puzzle pieces began to lock in place.
There was an awkward silence as the two men looked into each other’s eyes.
“That’s it?” After a few moments, Kai broke the silence. “‘Oh?’ Aren’t you upset or angry?”
Sitting upright in bed, Hunter crossed his legs together, clasping the tips of his toes within his hands. He ignored the searing hot sting of atrophied muscles being stretched far beyond their tolerance. “How long have I been…?”
“About a week.” Kai fiddled nervously with his fingers as he spoke. “It would have been quicker but, like I said, you were this close from dying. You needed a lot of blood just to get back to…” He trailed off before saying the word normal.
The cat hopped back on the bed and went directly to Hunter’s lap, purring happily. The warmth and comfort spread quickly through his body, and he relaxed back into the pillows.
“Annabelle’s been keeping you company the whole time,” Kai grinned softly. “She seemed to know when you needed the company.”
Hunter scratched behind Annabelle’s ears, causing her tail to perk in the air. He sighed.
“So what happens now?”
Kai lifted himself up and he crossed the bedroom to his black backpack. He pulled out a clipboard and a canteen, bringing them both back to the bed. Sitting next to Hunter, he gave him the canteen while he produced a pen from the clipboard.
“We don’t have much choice. We have to get you registered. And then we’ll have to move you out of General Agency and into V-Division. I can’t very well be caught harboring an undocumented vampire in my own ward.”
Vampire. The word barely made any sense to Hunter. He knew what a vampire was. He had been around them for so long already, but to actually… be one? Shouldn’t it feel different? Shouldn’t he be in mourning for his mortal life?
“Drink,” Kai prodded softly, gesturing to the canteen. “It doesn’t stay body temperature forever you know.”
Hunter unscrewed the top of the bottle and looked inside. It was filled to the top with thick, dark red blood. He felt nauseous just seeing it.
But he also felt ravenously hungry. He lifted the canteen to his lips and titled it back.
Kai clicked the top of his pen.
“It is my official duty to welcome you to the V-Division of Ward 12, new agent Hunter. Let’s begin your onboarding.”