Deep Red, Chapter Seven
May 20, 1730: Benjamin has decided to wed. Like many of us in this world, a changeling wife was not his first choice. I find explaining the necessity difficult, and I feel his mother’s absence most acutely at this time. Though it is not the custom, I have asked him to continue my research and writing once I am gone. This meant he had to choose a wife who will accept some of his authority and independence. In this world, finding such a woman is easier. There are a few changelings in the Americas whose ancestry spans back thousands of years, and Benjamin’s wife-to-be is one of these women … April 6, 1734: Benjamin had his first child, Jacob. The local Resident humans begin to wonder why many of us have not aged accordingly since our arrival, especially the volemics, who appear not to have aged at all. Thirty-six years would have shown equally on all our faces in the Otherworld. Suspicion shall soon force us to leave this place … April 26, 1735: We have found new homes further south. As before, where we go the vampires follow … July 5, 1738: Victoria’s daughter, Dorothy, has reached puberty and begins to exhibit strange gifts, and her fingernails have grown into claws. Victoria believes that Dorothy is the prophesied creature the primordials spoke of in our last home. Dorothy is also more tenacious than her mother–or, as separate from the Counsel, does her mother’s bidding–and actively seeks the vampires. At summer solstice, she found some sleeping and set them into the sun. They burned like wheat stalks, leaving behind only bones, which we all had to bury. We often wondered why the vampires only attack at night … November 6, 1738: Since Dorothy’s discovery of the vampires’ weakness, we have suffered fewer losses, but I suspect this is only because there are fewer vampires to attack, especially as Dorothy and her companions–which includes Margaret’s granddaughter, Ann–continue to deplete their numbers … September 21, 1745: Ann just birthed her third little girl. Since our kind does not have the same problems with infant death as the Residents, we are growing faster than I imagined. More of our kind continue to travel overseas and back West, though the Counsel remains together….
excerpts from The Diary of Walker Shinab, 1730-1745, trans. by Jonah Shinab, 1849
Marlo walked in silence as she followed Garrett to Victoria’s office, which seemed to be located in the center of the house. Victoria excelled at control and manipulation, and it had taken Marlo a few years to catch on. As a motherless child, Marlo wanted to please, and Victoria was an opportunity to fill the ever-widening hole. Though she put on a good show of being a savior, Victoria was incapable of giving Marlo what she lacked. Now, Marlo thought, she’s probably masquerading as a beacon of hope for all these kids.
Marlo had freed herself from Lucy and Victoria because she hated this feeling of impotence. Victoria accused her of rejecting her magical heritage, but that was only a by-product of Marlo escaping her captors.
Even with all its daily annoyances, Marlo preferred her human life. Humans expected very little when compared to Marlo’s guardians. Isaak always seemed more human than kindred. His dampened magical powers aside, he knew how to find the simplicity in the most complicated situations. He would have seen a way to make all of this absurdity seem light and manageable.
But you don’t have that gift, do you?
No, Marlo thought. Simplicity is a non-option for someone with looming expectations and an extra voice in her head.
Marlo looked at Garrett. She had long thought it unjust that no one expected much from Otherworld men. Isaak skipped through his childhood, Garrett coasted through his adulthood, and Marlo retained the weight of the world.
The voice laughed. You really think it’s so simple?
“I’m going to go in with you,” Garrett said as they arrived at the door of a circular room, breaking into her internal dialogue. The room appeared to hold up the entire house.
Marlo smiled. “Thanks.”
The office was as expected: bright, in spite of the lack of natural light, and filled with feelings of impossible expectation, which no amount of therapy could eradicate.
While Victoria spilled what seemed like an endless flow of words about Marlo’s daily routine, and the frequent trips to the hospital wing for tests, Marlo sat and stared at her.
“You don’t have to be so taciturn,” Victoria said. “This is the beginning of your life, not the end of it.”
Marlo nodded. Garrett glanced between the two women, as if expecting some kind of explosion. Marlo refused to give anyone the satisfaction of an outburst, which would make her seem more childlike and helpless than she felt.
Victoria sighed. “Do you have any questions?”
“I’m sure I do,” Marlo said.
“Please ask them.”
“I will when I’m ready,” Marlo replied.
“You were such a nice girl,” Victoria said. “What happened to you?”
Marlo shrugged. Funny that Victoria took Marlo’s non-compliance as a sign of absence in Marlo’s character. Without the two years of human therapy with Julie, Marlo might have given into the regret Victoria was trying to force on her, but Marlo had enough regret already without adding to it. She gave up years of her life to drugs and alcohol to be able to have her mental independence. She was a captive in this place, and she might deserve it, but her mind was something Victoria could not have.
Victoria nodded to Garrett and he held out his hand once more to Marlo. Marlo accepted his hand without taking her eyes off Victoria. She sat poised and comfortable, but Marlo sensed something stirring under Victoria’s designer blouse. Not a heart. Marlo had long ago given up on the existence of that. Marlo realized it was anger and had to suck in her lips to keep herself from smiling.
Marlo and Garrett walked hand-in-hand toward the Northeast side of the house. “You have to forgive her,” Garrett said.
“Do I?” Marlo asked. “Julie once told me that forgiveness is a gift, a gesture meant to help ease the guilt of someone who’s asking for it. Does she look sorry?”
“Perhaps not,” Garrett said.
“Not where it counts. She’s sorry she lost her hold over me, but she’ll never feel anything deeper than that.”
“I would be sad if that were true. Sometimes it just takes us longer to process.” He meant volemics.
Marlo squeezed Garrett’s hand. She refused to be heartless, but she believed Victoria would never take the time to mull over her choices. She’ll be onto her next scheme as soon as I am useless to her, Marlo thought. But that didn’t mean she was going to make it easy for Victoria to get rid of her.
When Marlo looked away from Garrett, she realized where they were. They approached the familiar double doors of the hospital wing without breaking speed. Garrett tucked Marlo’s hand inside the crook of his arm, as if she was going to bolt. He was smarter than most gave him credit for.
“Why does it have to be now?” Marlo asked as they went through the doors.
“Because there is a limited time in which we can make our discoveries, so we must begin immediately.”
“Why a limited time? It sounds like an infomercial.”
“The full moon is in a week,” he said.
Marlo pulled on her hand, but he held tight as he waved at a woman wearing scrubs, while leading Marlo over to a bank of chairs.
“What are they going to do?” she asked.
Garrett laughed. “I know it was a shock to wake up in a hospital room, and to know that you had been there three days, but do you even remember what this place is?”
“Beyond the feeling of dread it makes me feel?” Her arms were covered in goosebumps.
“Children are not going to have happy memories of the doctor, but you have to trust me.”
Marlo relaxed and said, “I do.”
Marlo looked around her, trying to grasp onto anything familiar. She knew the paint had been updated, as well as the carpet and upholstery. The nurse at the station was the only appendage she clearly recalled, but the color of her scrubs had changed.
After pegging the nurse as changeling, Marlo suddenly realized what she had been missing in the house. “Where are all the kindred?” she asked Garrett.
“There aren’t many here,” he said. “In fact, there’s only one besides yourself. Kindred are so much better attuned to this reality and rarely have dangerous outbursts, and there were only two of you at Haven when you were small.” The red head.
When the same nurse called her name, she avoided Marlo’s eyes, which only increased Marlo’s feelings of alienation. The voice, the hunger, and the new sounds were so internal, and something she could deal with. She was so used to seeing the souls of those around her. While changelings and volemics gave off the aura that allowed her to easily identify them, it wasn’t the same. She could feel a human soul, and see a kindred one. Changelings and volemics kept theirs well-hidden.
Garrett gave Marlo a hug before she left the waiting area, and then he sat back down with an expression of expectation, as if waiting for someone.
As Marlo walked to the end of the hall, sense memories began to surface, though the actual memories refused to materialize. Marlo had never needed to, nor would be permitted to, go to a human doctor, but everything from the weighing machine to the feeling of the hospital gown, front tied instead of back, brought on acute feelings of deja vu.
When the nurse drew her blood, it seemed fairly routine, though the goosebumps remained. After the nurse left with fifteen vials of her blood, each meticulously labeled, Marlo sat on the cool paper sheet that covered a squishy table/bed, waiting for the doctor.
Marlo began to sketch the room in her mind, as she often did when she was uncomfortable or bored or both. The room had weird pieces of art on the walls and various depictions of Otherworld anatomy, from the skin all of the way down into the nervous system.
She sat for a while, staring at the pictures when there was a knock at the door to which she replied, “Come in?”
From the moment the woman entered the room, Marlo couldn’t take her eyes away. The volemic doctor was stunning, even with her black hair pinned neatly away from her bare brown face, and her curvy body somewhat obscured by scrubs.
“So, you’re Marlo,” the volemic said, shaking Marlo’s hand. “I’m Zoe, the resident doctor.”