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The trap door was opened with far more haste than was necessary.
It was dark underground, of course. Vampires didn’t care, since they could see anyway.
This particular vampire that was forgoing the perfectly good ladder down to the ground and jumping to the concrete floor was, it seemed, in just a bit of a touchy mood. Imagine that, if you could see him, he was wearing a trench-coat and a hat that would be perfect for spelunking. If you could see and he was moving fast enough to move the coat away from his body, you would see he was also wearing shorts. And no shoes at all, of course. You could hear the slap of bear feet against the ground.
Under his breath he was muttering, though even he couldn’t hear what he was saying.
The room didn’t remain dark for long as he turned on the light that was positioned on his hat. It flickered before sending a bright beam over concrete and old light sockets. He followed the hallway through an almost maze-like passage before a room opened around him as the path opened up. This was the room with the computer that ran Morganville. It was a hulking form, crouched in the back of the place and seemed almost to cower away from the light as the shadows from Myrnin’s headlight effected the surrounding area.
Myrnin, however, didn’t even look at the machine and instead searched the deeper shadows until a lump of brightly colored rags came into view. Not truly rags of course. Instead, it was a boy so still that he might as well have been dead. But as the light fell on him, a large breath inflated the clothing and a sandy brown head rose. Myrnin understood the boy hadn’t been asleep. That was why he was down here. Again.
“You didn’t sleep,” he said, voicing his thoughts.
The boy’s eyelids dropped, but his answer was easy to understand, even if they were from a throat that caused the words to rasp out. “I don’t have to.”
“Vampire is not a synonym for I-don’t-need-sleep. We just sleep in the day. Which you happened to miss.”
“You aren’t my mom,” said the boy.
“On the contrary. If you continue to be a two-year-old, Sam, then I will take that title if I need to.” The words were a hiss. “I know what the dreams are like, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to at least keep some semblance of health.”
“The pot calling the kettle black,” said Sam to himself.
Myrnin’s fingers almost clenched and he leaned forward, a hand going under Samuel’s chin and tilting it up. Sam didn’t resist, but the defiance in his eyes could have killed.
Myrnin stooped, switching off the light on his hat and plunging them both into darkness. At least until their eyes adjusted, growing wide and reflective of the small lights that were on the machine to their back. Unlike cats, the only difference was they could still see everything in color, and, in a sense, heat as long as it was produced from a beating heart.
The machine was there, more of an AI than anything else, which explained Sam’s presence here. Sam came down here to rant. Within earshot of Frank, the machine, it would seem. Because what use was it to rant to someone when you couldn’t be heard.
“You need to sleep,” Myrnin repeated.
Sam finally snapped out two words between buttoned lips and narrowed eyes. “Make me.”
Myrnin’s eyes narrowed. “Fine. I will.” Sam didn’t look pleased at this. He actually looked shocked.
Myrnin’s hand moved to the side of his face and the other hand pulled up to mirror it.
His eyes met Sam’s and there was a tickling at the back of his head. To begin with, it was uncomfortable, itching. Then Myrnin leaned forward, forehead meeting blond hair. And Sam’s eyes rolled back and he felt like he was falling forward.
Only, it wasn’t his dream that met him.
The mall, and that was what it appeared to be, was only lit by moonlight.
It was cast from high up windows, falling in patches onto white, bleached tile. The dream, and through this disconnected way that Sam was viewing it, it did seem to be a dream, caused the surroundings to flicker. Like two pictures were being overlaid. One of an empty room, only tile and faded grey carpet and another, with racks of clothing and shoes, all in shades of moonlight. Dark, humanoid shapes, more shadow than anything else moved around the former broken badly taken picture more than they had the latter. They flickered, skipping forward each step or so, like the mind that was running the dream could keep the pace even.
Or as Sam made out a face, it might simply be how vampires walked when they were nervous.
A pale face, looking like pent up energy was only just being held in check, appeared on one of the shadows as it walked past Sam. The boy did know who the man was, but the face flickered out before he could try and catch any more details.
He noticed something else. No matter which moonlit overlay you payed attention to none of the vampires ever touched the tiles. The white tiles we’re avoided, even though they went from the distant, fuzzy door to where Sam was standing, take up over fifty percent of the room. Yet it was avoided, walked around and most often given a wide birth.
No fear caused him worry in this room. It wasn’t his dream. Had it been Myrnin’s intention to implant this dream in his head?
“Not like I appreciate you messing with my brain,” he muttered, though he didn’t know if the older vampire could hear him.
And he couldn’t even tell where Myrnin was in all of this. He wasn’t Myrnin, was he?
He looked down. Nothing. Literally nothing. He wasn’t there. No sign of a body at all. And the dream people, all around him, didn’t notice him either.
He wasn’t supposed to be in this dream, so it reacted like he wasn’t there.
And then he did see a familiar face. One of the drifting shadows had condensed into a feminine form of Lady Grey. Out of the darker corners of the mall, another shadow pulled itself away and became more solid than it had before. Myrnin. And he didn’t look well. Not healthy, mentally or physically.
It was here Sam saw the collars. The shadow of Lady Grey and Myrnin had become extremely detailed, so it was clear that they were the focus of this illusion. And with them, you saw the collars. Shock collars, just like you would put on a dog. These large, bulky things, black, and sitting uncomfortably around their necks.
Sam blinked. What?
Myrnin looked impatient, pacing and nervous, like, well, liked he was trapped.
Lady Grey had gently laid a hand on his arm, but he shook it off as he passed. He said, snapped really, something at her, but she ignored it, trying to keep up with his shuffling. He was getting closer to the moon washed tiles, still saying something every few seconds, but it was like the whole dream was on mute.
But that didn’t mean that Sam couldn’t understand what was going on. The words, or at least the sense, was inserted in his head. Myrnin was complaining, ranting, and Lady Grey was trying to get him to slow down. To think.
Myrnin really didn’t do thinking right now.
He took several steps forward, teeth gritted and lips pressed together. The patch of tile was close and then … he had stepped over it, foot falling into the moonlight and if anything, he became even more pronounced.
For a heartbeat, he stood there. Whispered breaths of idiot and stupid came to Sam’s mouth, even though he had no idea what was going to happen. The way he tensed, his body wanting to pull the older vampire back even though that wouldn’t work, it was easy to tell that there was something in his brain that understood something odd was going to happen. But there was hardly any other reaction from any of the dream vampires.
And Myrnin collapsed. Sam blinked in surprise, not sure what was happening. The hiss of pain, however, and a slight tingling sensation that ran up and down his body was all he needed to know. Suddenly, there was sound.
The collars around their neck were just like shock collars because that was exactly what they were.
“Come away now, please,” said Myrnin.
Sam whirled, because the voice hadn’t come from the Myrnin that was lying, twitching, on the ground. It had been a verbal sound … but no one was there.
Around him, the dream dissolved, colors running around him before fading to familiar black.
A hand gripped his shoulder and he jerked up so fast his head rushed even though he hadn’t even woken up properly yet.
“Easy,” said Myrnin, voice no longer in his head and a very real hand pressing into his shoulder.
Sam found it easy to come to terms with the fact that he was not dreaming any more than he ever had previously. Though it had been vivid, it hadn’t been his. He had not been so deeply wrapped up in it that the lines between him and the waking world had been blurred.
“I didn’t mean for that to happen,” said Myrnin. He looked just as, if not more, tired than Sam had.
“What was that?” Sam asked, rubbing some feeling back into his fingers. “Why did that happen?”
“Pot to the kettle, as you said,” Myrnin mumbled. “And the fact that you are a vampire. There is a bit more than the blood and teeth to our abilities.”
Sam sort of froze. “Wait. Does that mean that you saw my dream? The one I’ve been …” He trailed off at Myrnin’s offhand wave, like it was no big deal. “Your dream is none of my concern. If you wish to discuss your needs with me, the need to say what happened to you before Lady Grey found you, then I will listen. I shall not press the issue when you do not want me to.”
He lowered his hand, bouncing back on his heels to give Samuel space. “However, my business is my own memories, which you seem to have hijacked. What you saw was something that happened ten years ago. I would prefer not to … talk about it.”
“But -” Sam started and here Myrnin held up his hand.
“When you’re older, then. I will answer when you are older.”
“But I’m not going to get any older,” said Sam through his teeth, just a little bit of annoyance returning.
Myrnin stood up, ending the subject and turning away. “At least you slept. Good morning, Samuel.”
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