Chapter 7:

The Reaper’s Residence

Blood and Silver

In all religions, death is in some way incorporated as part of it. These religions usually have a diety who’s sole purpose revolves around death. This is no surprise, as death is an inevitability that resides over us all. Similarly, in most cultures, the dead are respected and treated with care, often more so than the living. They make sure that a place of eternal rest is a suitable one. Such is human nature.

However, in the maze of brick that is the world projects, this seems to have been turned on it’s head. The slum’s inhabitants have, just like other cultures, have grown to believe in an agent of death. However, theirs is much different than any other. In the world projects, the agent of death does not simply guide the souls of the departed to the next life, nor is it merely a cultural legend.

Whenever the dead are left alone for a certain amount of time, their entire being, mind and body, disappear. They are taken by the world project’s agent of death. The agent is both feared and revered. The slum’s residents are aware that there must be a logical explanation to all this. However, they have yet to discover the truth behind why the reaper does not settle for just the soul in the world projects.

• • •

Nadia traversed the World Project’s alleyways once more. She moved frantically, hoping to find a place to lay low until she could set up another permanent hideout. She scaled up upon scaffolding and even ran atop rooftops as she searched. All the while, a strange feeling exhaustion afflicted Nadia, despite the fact she should not feel exhaustion as a vampire. Realizing it must be a product of her panic, Nadia decided to stop in an alley and calm herself down.

However, just as her panic began to fade, it quickly returned. Instead of Nadia’s exhaustion beginning to dull as she calmed down, the opposite happened—the exhaustion sharpened. The truth quickly dawned upon her. She had been in contact with something made of silver, and in her panic, Nadia had not realized it. But even though she had realized this, she did not know where the object was. Nadia began to feel around her body, trying to find where the object was. When she began to search her backside, Nadia took off her backpack.

As soon as she had done so, Nadia felt a sharp pain come from her lower back. She suddenly tossed off her backpack out of pain. The cause of the pain remained in Nadia’s back. She reached for it, attempting to remove it, but Nadia’s fingers were unable to grip the thin object. It was entirely made of silver. Unable to remove the object, Nadia picked up her backpack and began to walk through the alleyways. Instead of searching for a temporary shelter, she was now searching for a member of the Cruxius family or one of the servants. Nadia knew how difficult it would be, but she had no other choice. If she didn’t find someone that could remove the silver needle, she would fall unconscious indefinitely.

As she searched, Nadia’s body began to lose strength. Her exhaustion grew exponentially. It continued to weigh down upon Nadia until her legs failed to carry her any longer. Even as her legs failed her, Nadia continued to crawl, hoping to come across someone who could help. Her eyes grew heavy. Her consciousness began to fade. Memories of Nadia’s wedding rushed through her mind. Her entire body had fallen limp. Right before her eyes closed shut, Nadia saw a pair of boots next to her.

• • •

“No!!! Please don’t do this!”

“Please!!! We’ll do anything!”

These screams and pleads came from several men that were bound to wooden poles in the middle of an abandoned warehouse. Surrounding them were several people in hooded red robes that hid their faces. Some of the figures nearest to the bound men carried large torches. At the forefront of these figures was Absalom, who was wearing a red priest’s robe.

“Such indecency to plead for your life even when you’ve admitted to your sin,” said Absalom.

“How is messing up one job a sin!?” exclaimed one of the men.

“Need I seriously remind you once again?” said Absalom, “It’s quite simple. You see, my will is the will of God, and to betray my will is to betray His will. And betraying God’s will is a sin”

“But haven’t you given lighter punishments than this for failing a job before?”

“Yes, I have, but it is paramount that the Cruxius family is exterminated,” replied Absalom, “And Nadia is an especially important target. Therefore, this failure is a sin of much greater consequence”

“But we can make it up! Can’t we at least attempt to repent!?” exclaimed one of the men.

“But don’t you see? You are being given a chance to repent,” replied Absalom, “What do you think those torches are for?”

“But if we’re sinners, won’t we be going to hell? Is there a reason to kill us so terribly as earthly punishment?”

“No, but I’m not burning you as punishment, I’m making sure you can properly adjust to hell’s flames,” replied Absalom, “In fact, you could say this is mercy”

“This is an outrage! Would you do this to one of your own, you vampire!?”

“No I wouldn’t,” replied Absalom, “because God holds us in a different light than humans. He made us to be above humans”

“Damn you!”

“Let the burning begin!”

At Absalom’s command, the robed figures carrying torches set fire to the poles that the men were bound to. The fire spread to the men and burnt them alive. As they burnt, screams permeated throughout the building. Absalom turnt back towards all the figures.

“Let this serve as an example of the fate that faces humans that sin” he said as he gestured his arms upwards. After waiting for the men to take their last breaths, Absalom made his way through the crowd and exited the building. Waiting outside for him was his daughter, Sophie.

“I see you’re still fond of public demonstrations, father,” she said as he exited the building, “I don’t wish to dwell on what’s already been done, but don’t you think that some of their last words had some merit?”

“Perhaps, but they are—or were—nothing more than humans,” replied Absalom without hesitation, “I have no need to consider their arguments, no matter how valid”

“Is that so?” said Sophie, “I think I may have forgotten just how deeply your beliefs ran in the time I was away”

“Has it now? Well I’m sure you’ll be reminded of it quite often, especially with the business we’re now tending to”

“Perhaps,” replied Sophie, “But, on the topic of those men, don’t you believe you could’ve kept them alive and used fear to ensure they furthered your interests? I mean, dead men are no use to anyone, especially if you burn their body and make their blood undrinkable”

“I beg to differ, Sophie. By killing them in such a way, I’ve instilled fear into every human into that room. Now I use that fear you suggested I use on a few men on a greater number of men”

“Fair enough, father”

“Why, Sophie, don’t tell me that you’re upset that I killed those humans, are you?” asked Absalom, moving closer to his daughter.

“Of course not, father,” answered Sophie, “I was simply unsure if your choice was the most beneficial for the family”

“And have those unassured thoughts been quelled, daughter of mine?”

“Of course, father,” answered Sophie with a smile, “As you have told me, you sacrificed a handful of servants to further your grasp over a larger number of servants. That is most certainly the greatest gain we could hop for”

“Then I’m glad you see it like that,” replied Absalom, “Now, let us go. We have work ahead of us”

“Lead the way, father”

• • •

When Nadia awoke, she was in an unfamiliar environment. The lighting was dim, and it was nighttime, so she couldn’t tell exactly what was in the room. She could, however, make out the shape of an IV machine, a chair, and a person sitting in it. She could roughly make out their face, which appeared female. The woman had sky blue hair with a full volume that flowed down her back. She wore dark clothes whose details Nadia couldn’t make out in the dim lighting.

“Good morning,” the woman said in a soft voice. Her face had a smile upon it that radiated a sense of hospitality and familiarity, despite the fact that Nadia had never met a woman anything like this before. Nadia’s gaze lingered upon the woman for a short time before she realized that she was waiting for a response.

“Where is this place?” asked Nadia.

“The world projects,” answered the stranger.

“Is there anyone here other than you?” questioned Nadia.

“No, I live on my own,” said the woman, “In fact, you’re the first company I’ve had in a while”.

“Is that so?” said Nadia as she looked over to the IV machine, “Then I guess you don’t use that for medical operations. Also, you somehow brought me back from hibernation, meaning...”

“Yes,” answered the woman as she opened her mouth, revealing a set of enlarged canines, “I am a mutant like you”

“Mutant?” said Nadia confusedly.

“Wait, are you new to being one? If that’s the case, then I should explain that ‘mutant’ is the term used for your condition”

“No, that’s not what I meant by that,” said Nadia, “If you call this condition being a mutant, then that must mean...”

“Mean what?”

“What’s your last name?”

“Eh?” exclaimed the woman confusedly, “It’s uh... Stone. My name’s Elizabeth Stone. Why do you ask?”

“So you’re not a member of a family?”

“No, like I said, I live alone”

“Then why did you bring me here?”

“Well obviously I couldn’t leave someone lying near-dead on the floor, especially when I know I’m one of the people that know how to help you”

“Don’t give me that,” snapped Nadia, “we both know nobody’s stupid enough to take in a vampire without at least knowing who their family is first”

“Vampire? What are you talking about?”

“Cut the crap, I know there’s probably someone waiting just around the corner with a knife with my name on it”

“A knife? Wait, slow down real quick”

“Are you sure playing dumb is your best option right now?” said Nadia as she got up from her bed, “I’m sure you’re well aware of what I’m capable of”

“What you’re capable of?” said Elizabeth, panicked. She got up from her chair and began to put her hands in front of her.

“I don’t think you should be getting out of bed,” said Elizabeth.

“You’re seriously going to keep up the act, huh?” said Nadia, “Well in that case, let me show you just how dangerous I can-“

Before she could finish her sentence, strength suddenly left Nadia’s legs. She began to fall to the ground, but Elizabeth caught her. When she did, Nadia uncharacteristically grasped onto the woman’s shoulders for support.

“Are you okay?” said Elizabeth, worriedly. She was holding Nadia’s head to her bosom. Elizabeth’s well developed bust cushioned Nadia’s fall.

“Are you really not with the Dragomirs?” asked Nadia, ignoring Elizabeth’s question.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” replied Elizabeth as she helped Nadia back over to the bed, “but based on the things you said earlier, it seems you need more than just physical rest”

“I guess so,” replied Nadia as she laid back down.

“So what was that you said about vampires earlier?”

“That’s what the people I’m normally around call people like us”

“Is that so? And what about what you said about family?”

“It’s a long story, but, essentially, there’s some bad blood between my family and another one”

“How bad is it?”

“There have been attempts on my family’s lives”

“I’m sorry,” said Elizabeth, “that must have been hard on you”

“Yeah, I guess so,” said Nadia, “You do believe me right? I mean, you’re not acting like you’re accepting all this while thinking I’m crazy, are you?”

“Oh, no,” said Elizabeth, “I’ve actually been through quite a bit myself. In fact, it would probably make your story seem a bit tame”

“Could you share it, then?”

“Well...” started Elizabeth uncertainly, “sure, though I can’t tell you everything. Instead, would you be fine with me confessing to you?”

“Confessing to me?” said Nadia, taken aback.

“No, not like that,” said Elizabeth with a giggle, “I mean like you would to a priest. I’m saying that I’ll tell you my sins”

“Why would you confess them to me?”

“Like I said, you’re the first company I’ve had in a while”

“Well then, I guess it’s fine”

“Alright,” said Elizabeth as she took a deep breath, “I have been robbing graves for food”

“For food? You mean... you get blood from corpses?”

“Yeah...” said Elizabeth, “You see, I don’t want to make anyone else into a mutant, or as you say, a vampire. It’s such a burden in life, you know? But I also don’t want to kill or kidnap anyone so I can survive”

“So you rob graves?”

“Yeah,” said Elizabeth, “You see, the recently departed can still give me nutrition from their blood just as well as someone who’s alive. So I go around the world projects looking for someone who’s recently passed and take their body while they are unattended to”

“Wait does that mean you’re that ‘Reaper’ I’ve heard rumors about?” asked Nadia.

“Yes, I am” said Elizabeth, “And honestly, every time I see anything related to the grim reaper or death I begin to feel guilty”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I’ve gone as far as to defile the bodies of the dead just so I can sustain my life,” said Elizabeth, beginning to tear up, “Respect for the departed is one of the most sacred things to people, yet I’m willing to selfishly throw that away for survival”

“Elizabeth, what are you talking about?” said Nadia, reaching her hand out on top of Elizabeth’s, “I’ve seen people, even ones in my own family, do much worse things for sustenance. If anyone should feel guilty, it definitely shouldn’t be you”

“You think so?”

“Yes, I do”

Elizabeth wipes away the tears in her eyes.

“Thank you,” said Elizabeth, “Can you tell me what your name is?”

“Nadia. Nadia Cruxius”

“You’re a kind person, Nadia”

“You think so?”

“Yes, I do”

Well you’re wrong, Nadia thought to herself.

I’m anything but kind.

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