Tales of the Daywalkers (Week 9)
Weekly Feature…Vampire Fiction Serial (Click to read week 8)
The casket shivered as another fierce blow struck the outside, then went completely still. I didn’t dare move…not even to draw a breath to taste the air around me. Sebastian’s fury was unmistakable…and unpredictable.
I stayed quiet for another painfully long moment. Unexplained movement on the outside caused my insides to twist uneasily. I knew he would be angry…I just had no idea of the depths of that emotion.
Another jolt shook the coffin. A rush of heat thawed my cool skin before I noticed the light pouring in from under the lid. At first it was a comfortable warmth spreading through me like the summer mornings I remembered from my previous life. But in an instant it grew alarmingly hot. I was scorching…as if my skin was bubbling and peeling away. The lid flew open, bathing me in the fire of the sun, igniting my skin instantly. A scream ripped from my throat. The flames lashed out, clawing at my exposed skin, leaving nothing but charred flesh in its place. A sudden notion had me searching for Claude, but he was gone…there was nothing but a pile of ash beside me. And Sebastian’s twisted face gaping down at me from above.
My life was over.
My eyes snapped open to the same inky blackness I always found upon waking. No light seeped into my sleeping box. No flames seared my cold skin.
It was nothing but a nightmare.
I listened to Sebastian’s impatient pacing, as if he was willing the sun to set with every ounce of force he could muster. And if anyone could chase away the sun with a glower, it would be Sebastian.
I nudged Claude quietly.
“Wake up,” I whispered. “If Sebastian’s frenzied behavior is any indication, it’s almost nightfall.”
“I wasn’t asleep. How could any man sleep with such magnificent memories to replay in his head?” Claude pressed his lips to my temple.
I would have blushed if I’d had the capacity. “That’s very sweet of you, but if you don’t put yourself back together, you won’t have to worry about memories much longer.”
“Aren’t we the over-dramatic one now?” I could hear the smirk even in his whispered tones.
“Hardly. We both know Sebastian’s temper isn’t something to be trifled with.”
“Hmmm…perhaps.” Claude dismissed the thought, but he buttoned his trousers and straightened his shirt for good measure just the same.
We didn’t speak a word about what had happened between us during the hours we waited for night to envelope the room.
A real shudder shook the casket this time and I found myself blinking in the unnatural incandescent light.
“That will be the last time you find yourself trapped in a coffin with him,” Sebastian said as he helped me climb out.
“I suppose it’s a very good thing I bought the deluxe, double wide model,” I smirked. My attempt at humor was designed to draw his attention away from any tell-tale signs of my betrayal.
Sebastian leaned in to brush his lips across mine. “You’ll have no need for that ridiculous casket after tonight, my love.”
To his credit, Claude said nothing. I actually found that a little discomforting. It was out of character for him to stay silent. Even in his human incarnation, he was never hesitant to speak his mind.
“You know…” Claude tapped a finger to his lips. “I actually found it surprisingly comfortable. A bit snug, perhaps, but I really didn’t mind.”
So much for not saying anything.
Sebastian’s black eyes flashed for an instant and the corner of his mouth tipped up into a menacing sneer.
With exaggerated deliberateness, I wrapped my fingers around Sebastian’s chin, drawing his attention back to me. “So…you were saying? Daywalking?”
Sebastian linked his hand in mine. “Yes. It’s time you knew the secret.”
He pulled me roughly behind him down the stairs with Claude close behind.
We stepped into the well-appointed kitchen and I gasped. The counters were piled high with a variety of plants, seemingly torn out by their roots hastily. I recognized a few, but many were foreign to me. I wandered forward to touch the fragile blooms and lush greenery.
“What is all this?” I asked.
“The recipe for day walking.” Sebastian pushed past me to grab a bushy sample. “This is Oleander. And this,” he grabbed another plant, “Is Thorn apple. In simple terms, if you combine these with a handful of caster beans and the flowers of the water hemlock, you have an elixir that allows you to walk in the day.”
My eyebrows knitted together as I stared intently at the plants in front of me. “Those are all poisonous species.”
Sebastian smiled widely. “Ah, yes…extremely toxic to humans. But to vampires? It causes a completely different reaction.”
I jumped as Claude came up behind me. “What sort of reaction are we talking about?”
Sebastian ignored Claude’s question and continued pawing through the lethal plants. “Now, most of these are fairly easy to come by, especially in this region. You can’t imagine how difficult they are to acquire in some parts of the world.” The excitement in his voice was contagious.
“So we’re lucky to live in a southern state I suspect.” I nodded toward Claude, drawing him back into the conversation.
“Yes. Very much so.” Sebastian’s face creased in a deep frown. “Unfortunately, not everything can be found so easily. The water hemlock only grows in or near water. Typically on the other side of the country.”
“Were you able to find any?” I chewed on my lip as I waited for his answer.
“I have a bit. What I have is barely adequate. I’ll be lucky to squeeze out enough to make two doses.”
Relief flowed through me and I smiled, looking from Sebastian to Claude. “Perfect. That’s all we need is two doses.”
An inexplicable expression crossed Sebastian’s face. I couldn’t be sure of what it meant, it happened so quickly. In fact, I wasn’t really sure if I had imagined it.
“The ingredients have to be ground up and boiled together into a liquid. Alcohol binds it. Preferably gin because of the juniper berries.”
“I used to enjoy a nice gin and tonic now and then. Not this sort of tonic, but there’s nothing like the situation at hand to change my mind.”
There was that look again. Sebastian’s gaze flashed to Claude for the briefest moment.
“How does the potion work exactly?” I watched Sebastian’s face for any infinitesimal reaction. “Will we be able to walk in the day immediately upon drinking it? How long does it last? What, if any, side effects should we expect.”
His eyes narrowed slightly. “You can’t be in direct sunlight without some protection. A cloak, a hat, some sort of covering to protect you from the full force of the ultraviolet rays. Indoors you can allow the filtered light to wash over you for short periods. Think of the elixir as a sort of sunscreen. It protects you, but prolonged exposure will still see you burn.”
His words rolled over in my head as I tried to take it all in. “How long do the effects last?”
“Eighteen hours or so. I’ve never had to test it. The sun goes down before the effects wear off.”
Claude picked up a sprig of oleander and ran it under his nose for a quick sniff before shifting his attention to Sebastian with a smirk. “How about we give it a test come morning? You walk out in the sun…see if you catch fire. I’ll be right behind you with my floppy hat and a marshmallow on a stick. If you’re good, we’ll know it lasts longer than eighteen hours…if not, I make s’mores.”
A burst of laughter bubbled past my lips before I could stop it.
Sebastian shot a hand out to catch Claude by the throat. “Why don’t we let you walk into the daylight without benefit of any elixir? I should find it most amusing to see you burst into flames.”
I rolled my eyes at the display of dominance in front of me. “Nobody is going to walk into the sun without the damn tonic.”
Sebastian cleared his throat. “That may not be entirely true, my love.”
I raised my eyebrows to gape at Sebastian. Before he said a word, I knew. I don’t know how I didn’t figure it out sooner.
“I did say I only had enough for two doses, love…and there are three of us now, aren’t there?”
Until the next time…I’ll be working on week 10.