Months after Laurent's ball, I was not bothered by members of the household, with the exception of Thomas. Whether it was out of ignorance or mercy, he did not bring up the events of the new year, nor did I feel comfortable opening up about such things. I returned to my hole beneath the Parisian streets, and continued my solitary existence, feasting on rodents rather than humans. Though I would be remiss if I did not note that, by now, my apatite for rats had dwindled considerably. No matter how many I ate, I found myself hungering for more. At a certain point, animal blood simply didn't taste right. Thomas was kind enough to supply me with flasks of fresh blood from his nights hunting. This sustained me over the coming days. During which, I refused to surface from my hovel. After what had transpired, I felt ashamed to boldly walk the streets. As though I was a criminal, flaunting myself in the face of justice.
I suppose I was. I had, after all, murdered a handful of innocent people by now.
The tail end of winter brought with it a horrible storm. It left poor souls to suffer within the confides of the catacombs. I discovered that winter that I was all but immune to such harsh temperatures. Every day that I hunted, I would find fresh corpses, frozen from the chill. While I could have easily feasted with no guilt, I did not bite a single deadman I found. My instincts had told me that this was very much a bad idea. Now I am thankful for such instincts, as I understand that a deadman's blood is able to rot an unmade man from the inside out.
I maintained this pattern until sometime in the early spring, when the snow was just beginning to melt. At some point, Laurent returned to my abode. I had just finished my evening round up of rats, though I was starting to find that they were becoming scarcer. Perhaps they were wising up to my hunting habits, and building their nests further and further away. I wondered if I too would have to adapt my methods of survival. I returned with my measly catches and set them in their cage, when I felt a chill hit my back. As I stated, cold no longer bothers me as it had when I was mortal. But this was no brush of wind. I could feel his presence lingering. Watching me. I turned, and there he stood. Silent as the grave.
"You have not made your decision yet," he said, his eyes piercing into mine.
I pushed down my nerves and instead tended to my rats. Although they were to be my meals, I at least fed them what little I could find in way of scraps to keep them comfortable. "I have," I replied, keeping myself turned. I could feel his scowl against my neck.
"I see." He stepped further inside. "Why? Why waste away in such a hole, mon chaton? Why torture yourself, feasting off the garbage of man? I can provide you comfort. Companionship. And yet you turn from me."
I straightened my back, staring as my rats feasted on the wilted scraps I provided them. "I feel that I am better off alone."
"Pah!" Laurent paced around my lodgings. Finally, I turned to see him. He was disheveled, frustrated. I recalled no such time in which he looked so ill-kept. Had my absence affected him so? "You are a child still. So young, so stupid." I held my tongue. "What man rejects such comforts offered? You are a slave to your scruples." He stopped and rounded to me. "No... there is something more." He stepped closer. I resisted any urge to express myself, and instead forced my face to remain stoic. Yet still, I felt his eyes pry into mine. As though he was rifling through my soul, picking out what bits of truth he could glean from my gaze. A wicked smile curled along his lips. "Ooooh. I see now. So desperate you are to cling to your human heart. Do you think this will absolve you? Wipe away the poison from your soul? Non, non. You are one of the devils now, good sir. Even now..." He laughed, cruelly, and took hold of my chin, keeping me from looking away. I felt his strength, and realized how much my own was dwarfed by comparison. "You hide away in mounds of dirt. Surrounded by the echoes of the dead. Is this not hell itself? Oui. I think it must be. And so you suffer, in hopes that you have the means to save your wretched existence."
With a mighty shove, he threw me to the ground. The limestone was not kind as I struck the floor. He hovered over me, and I could feel his bloodlust rise within him. I had, after all, insulted his home, rejected his hospitality. I would not blame him if he wanted to hurt me for all the slights I had leveed upon him. He grabbed my hair, and while I struggled, I found that I was far weaker than I imagined myself. All this feeding off of lesser blood had left me malnourished and feeble. "Who are you?" he seethed. "Who are you to deny me? Nothing." His words following were venomous, though I could not make them out, nor do I remember. A slurry of French said with such ferocity to illicit my stomach to turn. After a moment more, he returned to English.
"I would have given you everything... Do you understand? Everything. And yet you throw it away, for what? So that you may think yourself better than the beast you have become." He relinquished me, and I covered my head, soothing my aching scalp. His breathing was labored, and I could tell that he wanted nothing more than to hurt me further. Instead, he backed away. I looked through my arms to see him curse my name.
"Fine. Live with your rodents, mon chaton. May you die like one of them and rid yourself of this city with haste. The last thing we need is another parasite." With a twirl of his walking cloak, Laurent vanished into the catacombs. I laid still, letting the earth calm my stirring heart. However, footsteps clearly told me that I was not as alone as I might have liked.
Those footfalls came closer, and before long, Thomas was crouched before me, a pitiful look in his eye. "Mate..." he sighed. "You shoulda known better by now." He offered me a hand, and I took it, righting myself. "Aye me... Laurent won't forgive you, friend."
He dug his hands into his pockets and looked around my home. The same home that we had, not all that long ago, shared happy memories and swapped joyful stories. My only friend. "Pity... I think I won't be allowed here much longer. Once Laurent decides somethin', there's not much one can do to fight it."
I furrowed my brow. "Why obey him, Tom? You're a strong young man, and capable. Clearly you don't entirely fall in line with his ideology."
But Thomas shook his head. "Al... I had to learn myself early on how things go now. How this all works... To be alone as we are... Aye." He ran his fingers through his fiery hair. "It's a fate worse than death, if you ask me. To be a night walker with no family."
"Tom..." I reached for him and grabbed his arm, desperately. He turned, his eyes deeply saddened. "Why not leave the house? We shall depart the city together, as brothers. Travel the countryside, perhaps. Make good memories."
But Thomas's smile told all. He laid his hand at the base of my neck and pressed our foreheads together. I closed my eyes, feeling deeply what he so desperately wanted to communicate. There we stood, the last bit of family we had. When he let me go, it was like part of myself stepped away with him.
"Be seeing you, Alister..."
And with that, Thomas left. And left me, in no uncertain terms, truly and utterly alone.
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