From Everyone That I Have Been
A Journey Of The Self
Los Angeles Bound
'To Honour The Past'
I sit cross-legged in the back of Benjamin's Prius, looking over at him. I'm almost surprised that he's joined me in the back seat, allowing his wife (whose name I have very inconveniently forgotten) to sit in the front with the driver. He meets my eye and gives a solemn, cordial nod.
"Once again," he says, his voice ever tender. He always manages to make whomever he's talking to feel important and listened to- I suppose that must have been an essential tool in becoming the most powerful bloodsucker in America.
Besides all the billionaires, I mean.
"I am very sorry to uproot you so. I know that you had been settled in Detroit for… A long time."
"A hundred years," I say, thinking back to those days so long ago- the long, loose, boxy dresses that I loved so dearly, the illegal booze that only made it all the more enjoyable to consume. "Down to the month."
"Oh, I simply adored the twenties," says the woman from the front seat, sounding about as drunk as she always did. "Do you remember Mr. Lindbergh, dear?"
"Of course I do, Marie," says Benjamin. "Just with a lot less fondness than you do."
"Hmm," she says, taking a drink from her fancy canteen, one that looked to be cast out of pure iron.
Benjamin looks back over at me. "I'm sure your days were- quite different from ours,"
"Probably," I say with a crooked grin. Those days had been hard- the money had been good, at first, but the blood was always scarce, and eventually, the food had been even scarcer. But I'll be damned if they don't make for good memories now.
I do feel a pang of- something, having been prompted to look back into the past. Something other than the rage and dread I've grown accustomed to, having been full of them for nearly a decade. The pang gives way to that distant grief and the feeling of being lost that's only too happy to creep up on me when it is least expected.
I'm leaving my safe haven of metro-Detroit, a place I've come to know intimately, full of people I've known for, in some cases, a century. Feeling- oh, what was it- flat? My therapist always said I have a flat affect. Anyway- feeling flat, I look down at the floor. "I can't say I don't understand your decision."
Benjamin inhales sharply. "I'd certainly be concerned if you could," he says in his grandfatherly way, as if chastising me for eating all the cookies rather than for… Slaughtering the entirety of the Detroit Militia and releasing a snuff film about it that nearly outed us to the humans.
… Ironically, something that would have honored the Militia's goals.
"He deserved it," I say in a deep and mirthless voice.
"There were better ways of having gone about it, and you know that. You ought to be ashamed."
But I'm not. I know that I should be, but quite simply, I'm not.
The car is silent for a long time as we stare out our respective windows, the radio playing gently through the car. Occasionally, Benjamin shares words with Marie. We're perhaps an hour away from having to stop for the day when Benjamin speaks up again.
"I suppose you'll be changing your name once more," he says.
"Yes," I say. "Which is a shame. I quite like Lena, and it's easily the shortest lived name I've had."
"You could, of course, keep it," Benjamin says. "It doesn't make very much sense to be changing it all the time."
"I like it," I say. "Keeps things fresh, ever changing. It marks a new beginning in life. There has to be phases to it, you see, or I'd have lost my mind eons ago."
"How old are you, precisely?"
I think about that for a moment. "It's different with halflings," I say quietly. "If we don't get our fill of vampire blood, eventually we start aging again."
"I'm well aware," Benjamin says.
I look over at him. "I was born in 1860," I say. "I was fourteen when I became a halfling. I think it's safe to say I'm not fourteen anymore… But it's impossible to know, for sure, where I am."
He studies me for a long moment quizzically, and I take the time to study him, as well. I find myself envious of him. He was somewhere in his fifties when he was turned; being so old, he got to live an almost complete human life (for the time) before blossoming into a vampire. He got the absolute best of both worlds.
And I, a halfling changed as a child, had gotten the worst of them. I tear my eyes away and admonish myself for thinking like that. There was no point in wasting energy on what could have been, what should have been. All there is is what has been, what remains, and what could be. That takes plenty of energy on its own.
"You're the oldest halfling I've ever heard of," says Benjamin. "They're almost always undead- or dead- within a handful of years."
I'm afraid of dying. I'm terrified of vampirism. Especially without Bitsie. "Why fix what isn't broken? I'm perfectly happy and capable as I am."
"A fair point, I suppose. But… I'm sure you'll have to grow up one day,"
I frown and stare out the window. "It's getting closer to dawn. Unless you'd like to leave me an admittedly ashy new Prius, we should be getting to a hotel soon."
Benjamin books us three rooms in what I can only presume to be Chicago's fanciest hotel for a whopping grand per room, and I am left alone to stare out over Lake Michigan with longing and sadness.
"I'm never going to see snow again," I say. Bitsie's been gone for eight excruciating years, and yet I have not managed to break my habit of speaking aloud as if she was still here. "You'd have loved this room, wouldn't you? Have loved to see Chicago and everything else on the way to Los Angeles."
I was raised christian, of course. Despite everything, it's hard to pretend I don't still wholeheartedly believe in the religion, in God, in angels. And if they are real, there is no chance in Heaven or Hell that Bitsie is not an angel. So maybe she is listening. Maybe she's standing right behind me, her delicate little hand on my shoulder.
I inhale sharply and all but collapse onto the plush chair beside me, feeling the tears prickle my eyes. Goddamnit, I should be able to miss her without grieving, to love her without crying. She deserves better than that. Better than this.
Better than me. She always has.
I make my way to the bathroom and take the most posh bath anyone could ever have and arise feeling clean and aromatic. I catch sight of myself and stare at my naked body in the reflection.
There's no question I've aged at least a half dozen years since my dive into the vampiric world. I'm probably a foot taller than I was then, and though the general build of my body is still lean and youthful despite now being hardened by labor and training, I was clearly at least a couple years into my twenties. I stare at my face, once considered ugly and strange, now rather attractive by modern tastes, so lacking in its childish veneer that I had been trapped in for so long. I'd looked like this since at least the end of the Depression, but sometimes- probably because I've never been fond of my own reflection- it still shocks me to realize how much and how little I have changed over the nearly two centuries I've been alive.
I make my way to the bedroom and lay down, staring up at the ceiling. I don't often stop to reflect on my life, but right now it feels like a final send-off to Detroit, to my friends and my loved ones and the life I crafted for myself.
Tomorrow morning, we'll be in Omaha. The morning after that, we'll be in Denver. The morning after that, Cedar City, Utah. Then, finally, we'll make it to Los Angeles.
A new start. I should honor the past until then; after all, I've got nothing better to do.