A Family AffairA Story by Rawhide
Once turned to a vampire, a person changes in many ways. Some human feelings never go away; like the desire to build a family and have children of their own.
1. The Hunt
"I can't leave Lydia. Not now," he told the old woman.
The old woman understood the sorrow that Lydia felt, and she remembered her own husband's reluctance to leave her in this time when she was young. All women in their clan went through this. They all felt the yearning for motherhood and the pain of loss when they were denied.
They all tried despite the warnings to the contrary. Something in their physiology left the women unable to bear children. It was the price they paid for near immortality. The fact that they could be impregnated but not bear the baby made their fate all the more sorrowful. The pregnancy would begin with great hope and within four to five weeks time, her body would reject the baby, turn on it, and kill it while it was still unformed.
Their best speculations were that the embryonic babies just were not strong enough. Most of the women resorted to stealing other babies in the night as they slept next to their real mothers. But even a fully born baby was not strong enough to withstand the turning process. One of the lesser known truths about their kind was that you could be turned by drinking mother's milk. Deep anguish always followed after they held a baby in their arms and it fed from their breast and eventually died from drinking that milk.
When they start to turn, the baby suffers greatly and cries relentlessly. Many mothers kill their baby themselves to save it from some measure of torture. Some of the women take their own lives too.
Lydia had tried all of these contrivances to try to have a baby. They were a few months removed from her most recent attempt. She had kidnapped a baby from a village in the forest on the side of the mountains. She had been unable to bring herself to end the tortured baby's agony herself. She had begged Thomas to take the baby away and finish it. Thomas did as he was asked for her sake and the baby's.
Thomas knew that many women often took their own lives after losing a baby, and he was averse to leave her alone for any length of time. Lydia was heartsick and he feared what she would do if left to her own devices. But spring was coming soon, and it was hunting season. This was the one time of the year where the men were allowed to hunt for the year's meat. They would be gone for eight weeks. They would starve if he did not go on the hunt, but he feared returning to an empty home more than he feared death.
The old woman told him, "You must go on the hunt. I will keep a watch on her and make sure she is here when you return." Thomas started to speak but quieted when she held up a hand to him, "You are right when you argue that she needs you right now, but she needs you for more than just comforting her sorrows. You must provide the year's meat for the both of you. You can't survive without it."
Thomas knew she was right. He had to leave Lydia's wellbeing in her hands for now. He prepared for the trip, and in the morning when the old woman returned to their house, he told Lydia goodbye. Lydia lay in bed motionless. If she heard Thomas speaking, she showed no signs of understanding his words. He kissed her on the cheek and forehead. He swore his undying love for her. Lydia seemed unmoved.
As he walked out the door, he turned to the old woman. He held one of her hands and said, "Thank you, Marta. Please take good care of her."
2. Thomas Returns
The hunt was very successful, but it took longer than usual. Every year, the men must travel further to find sufficient hunting grounds. The surrounding villages know when the clan hunts, and they hide themselves. They had trekked south this year. It had been five years since they had travelled that direction, and they were hopeful that the hunt would be short. Unfortunately, the villagers have long memories, and they had to go beyond the pass to lands they had not visited in more than a century.
Thus they returned eleven weeks later. Every step that brought them closer to home weighted Thomas' heart a little more. The closer he came, the more he feared finding an empty home with a grave behind it. As he walked into the village, he saw the old woman off in the distance. She saw him and smiled at him as she held up a hand in greeting.
Thomas felt emboldened by this. Surely the old woman wouldn't be happy to see him if grief waited for him at home. He hurried his step eager to see Lydia and confirm his newly found hope. He didn't have to walk much further before he saw her. The women of the village were walking toward the hunting party welcoming their husbands home. He spotted Lydia right away. She was smiling. All signs of the pain she had suffered previously were gone. Her eyes twinkled, and she was outright glowing. He had never seen her this happy before.
She kissed him hard and welcomed him home. She helped him lift their apportionment of the hunt and carry it home. She was talkative and outright cheery. She hadn't been this blissful in many years.
Lydia immediately took some of the meat and began preparing dinner. The meat had been preserved by the hunting party as they killed it. Lydia hadn't eaten meat for about three months, and her mouth watered at the thought of the salty, fresh meat.
While Lydia fixed dinner, Thomas stored the meat in the cellar. He hung it from hooks by the rope tied around its feet. They hung upside down with what would be the head, if it was still in tact, close to the ground. The hunters took six pieces of meat each.
They were careful to always refer to their quarry as meat. They were never called bodies or people. Everyone in their clan had once been human, and it made the current situation more tolerable if they pretended that their prey was just nameless meat.
Every man had a role to fill on the hunt. The eldest men were the master hunters as they were the most skilled. The next in age were the hunt apprentices who hunted with one of the more skilled hunters to hone their skills and learn the tricks that come with experience. The men in Thomas' age group were the preparers and buriers. The meat had to be decapitated and the heads buried. Then the meat had to be skinned and salted. Finally, they were tied at the feet and their hands were bound to their waists.
Thomas was the oldest in this group, and next year he would be moving up to hunter apprentice. This was a big step up in their standing in the village. Thomas would have lost this opportunity if he had missed the hunt this year, and there might not be another chance to move up for many years to come. One of the hunter apprentices had been caught by surprise and had been killed while stalking potential prey. The meat that had killed him had been killed as well by the apprentice's master hunter. His family would share in the spoils of the hunt this year, but next year they would not unless they had a new family member to join the hunt.
When Thomas returned from the cellar, Lydia was just putting dinner on the table. The meat was perfectly prepared. Many think that it would be simple to prepare the meat as they eat it raw. But the heating process is very exact. If the meat is merely warm, then it lacks flavor. If it is heated too much or begins to cook, the meat becomes completely unpalatable. The meat must be within a few degrees of normal body temperature. It required precision and attentiveness to prepare the meat. Fortunately, Lydia was very skilled at this. She had been preparing their meat since they turned 23 years ago.
Lydia kissed Thomas again when he came to the table. She was smiling at him. No, she was grinning. She was bouncing in her chair. He noticed that she had a semblance of a scar on her left cheek. Something had happened to her while he was gone. Somehow, he knew it was something bad, but what could have happened that would make her ouright giddy.
She obviously wanted Thomas to ask her why she was so happy, so he asked. He wasn't ready to hear what she had to say.
"I'm pregnant," she squeeled as she jumped from her seat and threw her arms around him.
Thomas was floored. Either she was dillusional or the baby wasn't his. He had been gone more than twice the amount of time it takes for a pregnancy to self-abort. In fact, more time than that had passed between the time that they had last made love and when he left for the hunt. She simply could not be pregnant. Yet something had happened. The last visages of the scar on her face showed that. Thomas was afraid to ask. No matter what the answer was, he knew he wouldn't like it.
3. A Growing Concern
Over the next several weeks, Lydia's intense happiness continued. Thomas was distant and worried, but Lydia didn't seemed to notice. She was too involved in her own pregnancy to notice anything else. She was quite obviously pregnant. There was no denying it any more. The other people in the village noticed too, and everyone looked at Lydia in awe. She was the first of our kind to carry a baby this long.
Thomas tried to talk to the old woman several times, but she claimed to know nothing about what happened. He could tell that she was being deceptive. She knew something, and she wasn't telling. The scar had disappeared from Lydia's face, and if Thomas questioned her about it, she acted as if she had no idea what he was talking about.
According to Lydia, she was going on her third month of the pregnancy when Thomas spotted her talking to the old woman. They whispered to each other hurriedly and laughed. The old woman spotted Thomas and said something to Lydia. Lydia squeezed her hand and walked away. She walked up to Thomas, kissed him on the cheek, and continued into the house.
Thomas decided the time had come to get some definitive answers, and he would start with the old woman. She had gone into her home, and he walked right in without knocking. Her husband had died many years ago, so she lived alone. She ate meals with her adopted son's family, but he was far enough away to be of no concern to Thomas. He had resolved to get answers any way he could.
Thomas grabbed the old woman and turned her hard so that she faced him.
He demanded, "What the hell happened to my wife while I was gone, Marta?"
The old woman looked at him fearfully and shook her head from side to side. Maybe it was the look on his face or the determination in his eyes, but she decided to talk.
"Shortly after you left for the hunt," the old woman said, "she went for a walk. She was gone for a very long time. She did not return that first night, and in the morning, some of us went to look for her. We searched most of the day, but we could not find her."
We returned late in the evening, and she had returned while we were gone. I checked her house, just in case, and she was laying on the floor by the table. I think she collapsed right after she got home. Her face and body was coated with dirt and dried blood. Her clothing was ripped and hung loosely on her body."
Thomas pleaded with the woman, "What happened to her?"
The old woman replied, "I honestly don't know. She was attacked by someone or something. She had been hurt physically and ... and more. Her dress had been ripped. Whatever it was, it hurt her bad. She was hysterical when I found her. She was ..."
Thomas dropped down into the nearest chair, and the old woman stopped. If the chair hadn't been close, he would have just dropped to the floor. He knew what the old woman was trying to tell him without saying it. He couldn't believe it, but he knew it was true.
Once the woman had stopped, she found it difficult to start again. She finally gave up and sat down across in the chair nearest his. She took one of his hands. He let her take it for a moment before pulling away. Thomas stood up suddenly and walked out without another word.
On the way to the house, Thomas decided that he would get an answer out of Lydia no matter what it took. He threw open the door, and Lydia was sitting at the table rubbing her stomach and humming an old lullaby. It was the song his mother used to sing to him when he was a baby. When he was human.
Thomas knew that he would never ask Lydia about the baby. Someday she would tell him when she was ready. Right now, she just wanted to be a mother, and he couldn't spoil that for her.
4. An Awakening
Lydia cried out. Thomas jerked awake and sat up. The moonlight shone in through the window, and he could see that her eyes were closed. Her face was strained and tears squeezed from between her closed eyelids while she moaned. She was dreaming. Her moans turned to weeping and then back to moans.
The snow had stopped, and the sky was clear. Thomas could see her face clearly in the light. The dreams began a couple of months ago, and the closer they come to the birth date, the more frequently the dreams came. He knew by now what to do to ease her mind. He carressed her head while humming the lullaby that she sings to the baby during the day. The same one that his mother sang to him so many years ago.
Lydia's stomach was moving. The baby was restless. He was never quite sure if Lydia's dreams disturbed the baby or the other way around. Whichever the case was, the lullaby soothed them both. After a couple of minutes, the baby slept peacefully and so did Lydia.
Thomas got out of bed to stir the coals in the stove. The nights were bitter cold now, and they kept the stove burning throughout the night as best they could. He added a couple of logs to the fire and grabbed a quilt from the chest at the end of the bed. He wrapped the quilt around himself and sat in the chair next to the stove. He watched Lydia sleep for awhile before he drifted off.
Thomas awoke the next morning to the sounds of Lydia crying. It wasn't the same weeping sound that she made when she was dreaming. This was different. Lydia was sitting in the bed with her arms wrapped around her stomach. She was crying outright.
He could see that tears were streaming down her face as he rushed to the bed to be at her side. She was in a lot of pain. He didn't know what child birth would be for one of their kind. None of them did. He put his arms around her to try to comfort her, but it had no affect.
Lydia looked terrified when she looked up at Thomas. Her lips were trembling as she pleaded, "Get Marta. Please."
Thomas flung the door open and ran. A wind had come in the night and blown away the snow that had fallen the day before. The ground was hard and barren. The coldness of it burned his feet as he ran bare footed down the path to the old woman's house. He burst in and called her name.
The old woman was already up. She grabbed her wrap and followed Thomas to his house. Thomas ran ahead, and the old woman came as quickly as she could. She followed his dirty, wet footprints to the bed.
Lydia was sleeping again. Her face was still flushed red. The old woman felt Lydia's face and wiped away what remained of the tears. She turned to Thomas and said, "Let her sleep for now. I will stay until the baby comes. It will be soon, maybe even tonight."
5. The Child
Lydia slept for most of the day, but awoke many times and cried out briefly before returning to sleep. Thomas stayed by her side while the old woman busied herself The first time that Lydia woke up and went right back to sleep, he looked at the old woman.
Marta told Thomas simply, "Labor pains."
Thomas knew what labor pains were, but he knew very little else about them. The old woman did not seemed alarmed by the pains, but every time Lydia cried out, he thought for sure that this was the one that wasn't going to stop. But they did.
The old woman fixed some lunch. Thankfully, Lydia was quiet while they ate. As the day turned into evening and the sun bagan to set, the frequency of the pains increased. By full night, Lydia was spending more time crying out than she did asleep. By moonrise, she was full on awake and screaming. The time was drawing near.
Another old woman from the village had come over. Her name was Tainia. Thomas wasn't sure if she had come to help or to see the first child born of our kind. Marta didn't shoo her away, so that was good enough affirmation for him. He sat by Lydia's side and tried to stay out of the way.
Thomas carressed Lydia's head pausing occassionally to wipe the sweat form her face with a cool cloth. The other woman had brought pillows from her house, and they placed them under Lydia's knees to hold her legs up and apart.
Thomas knew that none of the women had ever had a baby of their own, but somehow they knew just what to do. It's instinct for a woman he guessed. Lydia grabbed his hand and squeezed it hard. He could feel his knuckles grind in to each other as she squeezed.
"It's coming," Marta said.
Lydia let his hand go, but not for long. She sqeezed and cried out again.
Marta said, "I see the head."
The other woman added, "He has a luttle curls of brown hair like his father."
Thomas's spine stiffened. For a while he had forgotten how this baby had come about. The woman's words brought it crashing down on him. His hair is brown now, but he remembered that his hair was blonde when he was a baby. Lydia's hair was black, and as far as he knew, it always had been.
He let those thoughts go when Lydia squeezed on his hand again and screamed through clenched teeth. After several more of these, Marta finally lifted the baby up and Lydia collapsed back on the bed.
Marta wrapped the baby in a blanket and held it up. Thomas couldn't see it from the bed, but he could tell that its little arms and legs were moving. The women tried to hide the revulsion on their faces, but Thomas could see it. There was something wrong with their baby, but Thomas was afraid to go look.
Tainia cut the umbillical cord, and the baby cried out. It wasn't a normal baby cry. It was deeper. It almost sounded like he was trying to growl and cry at the same time. Marta said to the other woman, "Here, take the baby for a moment."
The woman took the baby and held it close. She laid it on her bossom with its head next to her chin. The baby stopped crying. The growling noise became more intense and was followed by a crunching noise as the baby bit into her throat. The woman tried to pull the baby away, but its little fingers dug in like claws and held it firmly in place.
Thomas was too shocked to move. Marta grabbed the baby and pulled on it. The blanket dropped free, and Thomas just sat and stared at its tiny body covered with hair. Or perhaps it was fur.
The baby let go as the woman slumped to the floor, and in doing so, Marta unintentionally pulled the baby close to her. Its claws sank into Marta's flesh and the baby bit down on her neck as well. It tore a large piece of meat from her throat. Blood poured from her neck as she too slumped to the floor.
Lydia awoke at that moment and called out, "My baby? Let me see my baby."
This awoke Thomas form his stupor, and he jumped to his feet. He wasn't sure what he was going to do. Their baby was a beast of some kind. It had just torn open the throats of two old women and now his wife wanted to see it.
When Thomas jumped to his feet, it scared the baby. It ran into a dark corner under a table. Thomas walked over to the table softly and bent down slowly. He didn't want to open up his own throat, but he had to see the baby. It was dark under the table, but Thomas could see the baby's eyes. The baby had Lydia's eyes. He had Lydia's eyes, and his eyes looked afraid.
Thomas sat on the floor and continued to look at the baby. The baby smiled and Thomas smiled back. Thomas started humming the lullaby. The baby recognized it, and it calmed him down. Slowly, the baby came out from under the table and went into Thomas's waiting arms. Thomas lifted him up still humming. The baby laid his head on Thomas's chest and closed his eyes.
Thomas stood and carried him to the bed. He sat on the bed next to Lydia. Instinctively, Lydia started singing the lullaby. Thomas laid the baby on the bed next to her. The three of them lay in the bed. Lydia and the baby slept. Thomas lay awake thinking.
He realized what he had to do. He had to bury the old women. In time, the clan would accept their baby the way he had. In fact, the women may even be eager to have a werewolf baby of their own because now they will know that they can have a baby.
© 2010 Rawhide
Maple Valley, WA
AboutHe puts his quill to parchment to preserve his story. Eons from now, no one will be able to fathom the depths of the suffering he felt nor the expanse of the suffering he caused. He will be villified,.. more..