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The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning



 
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Jameson Orlav

The entire process of becoming a vampire is absolutely brutal. Jameson can remember every moment as though it had happened yesterday. Every feeling of pain was etched into the pit of his gut. The feeling was like hot embers being forced through his veins, like bits of ground up blood and meat being fed into a casing. He burned for days. Screaming and pleading for the fleeting moments that he had regained consciousness. The only solace he received came when he blacked out. Even then, he had no memories of the awful things he had done. The things he had been put up to. Lives he had destroyed. People he had torn apart.

Now?

Now the people he tore apart were of his choosing. Every night there was a new meal, and it came in the form of whomever he wanted. Sometimes it was a woman he'd lured home from the bar, soaked to the bone in liquor and amphetamines. These meals were easy. Too easy. Nights when he was feeling lazy and the thrill of the chase didn't sound appetizing at all.

But other nights it was the hunt that made his dinner. The quickening of his victims pulse once the paranoia had set in. When that familiar feeling like maybe you're not alone makes you feel terrified and foolish. You pull your jacket tighter and your steps begin to hasten, but the shiver that shoots down your spine tries to convince you that you're being silly.

You're not.

Jameson is on the other side waiting. Somewhere in the depths of the shadows, just out of reach from the light cast by the moon. With the jingling of the keys to the lock comes an intense feeling of relief. You made it home and you're safe. But that's not true. That adrenaline rush sweetens the blood. Dopamine is the most delectable taste, and it's always the most intense in the hour immediately following.

Even so.

Hunting humans was small potatoes.

He craved more. He wanted more. Nothing in this life seemed to sate his hunger- which had turned into something much more fierce and frightening than it had been months before. Perhaps this was part of the eternal curse that Mackenzie had placed upon him. Never mind the wanton blood-lust and the prolific need for carnal delight...

More.

More.

There's an underlying task that lay dormant in the back of Jameson's mind. In a way, everything he did orbited around the assignment he had been given when she first turned him. And for many months he worked as coherently as possible to make things harder on himself than they needed to be. The new vampire had almost succeeded at killing his wife. Had nearly ripped off her head in the nursery where their child lay sleeping just feet away. Jameson tore into her neck, steadfast and lacking conscience, fully aware of the repercussions should he fail and the consequences should he succeed.

Elouise managed to to save herself that night. But Moscow had fallen, and so did everything that they'd built together.

Time passed faster than it ever had. Months felt like minutes, and for someone who was virtually ageless, it felt like a blessing. Distance was forming between himself and the life that he had shoved behind. The safest thing he could have done for Logan and for Elouise was to force them into hiding. In the darkness, he could do them no physical harm, though mental anguish he had surely brought upon his wife was undoubtedly catastrophic.

The vampire himself would choose to live his life with the same anguish. There were no days that he woke up and decided it would be better to turn off the way he felt. The proverbial switch that existed inside of him which would give him total control over whether or not he wanted to actively participate in feeling. He would always participate. Every single day, the same way that Elouise would wake up and feel the pain of betrayal by the man who was supposed to protect her.

That's how it was. Until parts of Jameson had become so beat down and stomped on that they were nearly unrecognizable, even to himself. The feelings and emotions that he clung too were subject to the same massive onslaught of havoc and destruction that the people around him were.

What was left of Jameson was a shell.

Roughly half of the population agreed that it was better that way. The other half would never experience the world as a better place. Without the disease of the un-dead. The place he wanted to help create.

That dream was dead, and so was everyone that Jameson ever loved.
Literally.

But here and now, Jameson was in a place where a certain darkness had taken root deep within his core. He had become well acquainted with it, and was comfortable. He trusted it. They had bonded. Elouise had come out of hiding. Or, rather, she hadn't been hiding quite so hard. He'd first caught her scent a month back while he was in New York. While it wasn't quite enough to bring him right to her door, it was enough to pick up on her trail.

She moved fast. Doing whatever it was that she needed and moving on to her next point. It wasn't until he'd trailed her deep into the southern America's that he'd realized there was something... Different. Jameson didn't realize it then, and he didn't particularly care to. Eventually he had gotten what he wanted.

An address.

There was nothing thoughtful about the way he prepared the letter. The paper was a plain matte white, and it's letters were written in a messy script- the same as his notes had always been. The only difference was the ink he'd used to pen it's contents. A criminally underused fountain pain was his instrument of choice. His medium?

Blood.

This is Jameson, we're talking about.

I've tracked you down for many days;
I've followed you through alleyways.
You haven't even seen me yet,
But when you do, you won't forget.


Just below the verse was a number neatly scribbled.

1566

If memory served her right, the number would pluck at a memory that was made somewhere in Bloemfontein. The first night that the two of them had been assigned to a detail on a building block. A particular building. Building 1566.

Jameson would continue to be one step ahead until the very end.
April 25, 2018 11:03 pm

Elouise Warrock

Life had changed drastically for Elouise Warrock in the last year.

She’d trusted a man, and loved him, and suffered the consequences of that love.

Loving Jameson Orlav had been visceral. Real. Intense. All words that could have described her husband, once upon a time.

She hadn’t resorted back to the woman she was before Jameson had forced himself into her heart. She was ever-changing, evolving into whatever inevitable, final form she was meant to take.

Torn between what Jameson had always seen in her, and what Elis wanted her to become.

Every morning Elouise watched the sun rise, bidden to the same harsh reality. She would want a million sunrises, and a million sunsets. But she would never have that life again. There had been a time, blissfully, she slept through every sunrise, and spent every sunset nestled in the arms of the man she loved. He had protected her, until all the loose ends in his life came crawling back.

Each and every one, a carefully kept secret from Elouise. To protect her.

 

I didn’t want to discuss it.’

Elouise was familiar with the statement. Noura. Cole. Jason. He built walls around her with the intention of keeping her safe, but only locked her away to her own isolation and misery. So much of that wedded bliss spent torn by anxiety over the secrets, the ambivalence of whether her concerns would be met with respect or dismissal.

But she loved being Mrs. Jameson K. Orlav. It meant something to her, to be loved by someone like him.

His damage fit hers like a matched set. It made sense.

Until it didn’t.

The devolution of the marriage began when Cole Ward respawned, and put a bullet in Elouise. Before that point, she had been convinced Jameson couldn’t help his relationships. But she had been wrong.

Jameson Orlav had been instrumental in the death of everyone he had ever loved. He wrought turmoil in his wake, but before Logan, Elouise found the chaos thrilling. When faced with the safety and dignity of her child… Things changed. Elouise changed.

 

It’s kněžna, you potato.’

She could hear his voice in her heard like a broken melody. The emotions she still felt for him were as raw as the first time she’d admitted her love for him. As the day he disappeared. As the night he returned.

The scar was still settled on her neck, pink and resistant to time. She didn’t look in mirrors any longer. Her own reflection seem to tug at the loose fixings that bound her heart together. She couldn’t be reminded of the carefree, vibrant young woman she’d once been. The woman that Jameson had painstakingly chosen to love. She forced herself instead to be different.

If time passed quickly for Jameson, it had the opposite effect on his wife. Every day agonized from hour to hour, crawling towards the end with every inch of trepidation time could seem to muster. Some days, Elouise stayed perfectly still, inside the refuge of the turquoise house of tin she’d called home for a few months now. Peru offered her refuge. She had to hide, to protect herself. First from Jameson. And then from Elis as well.

Most importantly, she had to protect Logan. From them. From herself.

 

"Fantastic! A baby. A baby? We're going to have a baby!"

His ecstatic tone still rang in her head. She remembered every excruciating detail of that day. Her emotions a mixture of anger, fear, and then all due to him, relief. Jameson had never gotten to meet their son – not really. Elouise had made sure no harm would come to her progeny; the perfect balance of Elouise and Jameson.

She cherished those first few minutes when the baby had gone from an idea to a reality, delivered alone, surrounded by strangers. The harsh medical lights bright in her face in the private suite of a Moscow hospital as she held her son for the first time. Ensured the correct number of fingers and toes. Looked into his chocolate brown eyes for the very first time, and wept as she looked into the eyes that were just as much Jameson’s.

 

Hi, Rambo…’

He was gone from her, now. Safe with people who had once been friends.

She tried not to think of them, if she could help it. The days went by more swiftly if she didn’t agonize over everything she’d been given by Jameson, and how it had all been torn away. Instead she focused on what was simple.

Slaughtering a drunken tourist who reminded her of Noura, torturing her until her very last breath. Tearing, limb from limb, the Australian man who, for whatever reason, resembled Cole. Shattering the skull of a Czech man who had whistled at her as she walked past the cantina, catcalling ‘kněžna’ as she prattled past.

It could have been latent insanity. Eternally traumatized by every last member of the rat pack Jameson consorted with. Even Oliver had become a fixture of her unbridled anger. Every murder seemed to have a subconscious reason behind him. Sometimes she admitted it to herself. Other times she forced herself to ignore it if only to ease her mind.

But every minute her still-beating heart pumped, it beat with a singular purpose.

 

Jameson.

It would always be the two of them. Thousands of miles away, or only feet apart…

It would always be the two of them. Every laugh. Every heartache. Every game.

Even this one. Especially this one.

So when Elouise stepped outside into the light of day, as she could, she was surprised to find an unmarked letter pressed into the jam of her rattled door. Nimble fingers broke the seal and procured a letter written in blood she could smell before she’d even opened the door.

I've tracked you down for many days;

I've followed you through alleyways.

You haven't even seen me yet,

But when you do, you won't forget.

 

She wondered if at first it could have come from Elis, but he never played such games. And then the number.

1566.

Bloemfontein. So it was Jameson. The crumbling apartment building. Where she’d first felt the inkling of something between them. When she’d gone to take her life when she’d learned what Jameson had become. And where he was summoning her to now. How had he found her? She’d been careful. Except… New York. She gave him credit, he was certainly attentive. Not so much in their marriage, but he was welcome to make up for lost time.

The warning sirens in her head indicating she should flee further were ignored. She would go to South Africa. She would find Jameson. She would rather have the light die from her eyes looking at his face, than continue to suffer the many isolated days without him.

Ticket bought, no need for a bag, she left Lima with a lower tourism rate than when she’d found it, but with renewed vision. She could handle Jameson. He had no idea what she was. Not really.

April 26, 2018 12:21 am

Jameson Orlav

The trip to Bloemfontein dragged on. From Peru, he'd needed to take three separate planes which meant two layovers. Once upon a time this wouldn't have been an issue. Jameson traveled here and there for business, which often included the blood market purchases of captive vampires and werewolves. But planes were part of the job then. Now, he grew impatient at airports. The number of bodies was overwhelming, as was his inability to come and go as he pleased during the day. Every body that passed by him was a potential meal, and every beating heart screamed his name in spite of his own desperation.

One red-eye flight after another brought him to his destination. It took him forty-eight whole hours to get there... But he managed.

1566.

It was the number he had left at the bottom of the letter. Elouise was smart. Quick. He knew that it wouldn't take her very long to catch on, especially once she'd realized that the letter had come from Jameson. She might have even been able to figure out what he was up to before she'd completed the whole... Tour.

But that didn't matter. If she wanted to know what awaited her at the end of the proverbial rainbow, she'd follow the trail exactly as he had laid it out.

The mile marker he was preparing now was Bloemfontein. The first stop.

Where everything began.

Jameson certainly wasn't as sentimental as he had once been, but that didn't mean that his memories had somehow evaded him, or had been erased indefinitely from his mind. Everything he had ever experienced was still up there. All of the good things and all of the bad. For now, the good things were most of what remained of Elouise and Jameson. It just so happened that they didn't weigh as heavily on him as the terrible stuff.

From his position on top of the (now) abandoned building, he could see a large chunk of the city. The sun had set, although some of it's remaining rays strayed from over the horizon. He was safe from them, as he had learned almost immediately upon turning. As safe as he was when the moon hung high above him and offered him safety from it's daytime lover.

Bloemfontein had grown since the last time he had been there. It was far from young during the days of Solitude, but as time had proven over and over again, be it a year or ten... Nothing will be the same as it was when you left it. The same seemed to go for people.

Under Camille's command, the two of them had been dispatched to contain a disturbance among the crews zombies. Their leader had paid a pretty penny for the magic used in raising the dead, which would then be used for training within the sanctuary. Alas, some rogue hobo had been running around killing them. A big no-no within the city limits.

When it came to pulling straws Jameson was, of course, the obvious choice. He was a master of his craft. The same as he was even now, really. It's just that the particular skill set didn't benefit him as much anymore. Where once he would make plentiful use of the extensive training, now his immortality afforded him the skills of an apex predator without the countless hours in the gym and on the range.

The bag Jameson carried with him was dark. It was lined ten times over with a material similar to rope, but thinner and much more agile. Said material would ensure that it's contents were impenetrable. It helped that he had friends everywhere, and that the power of his persuasion was a lot stronger than it used to be. He had the ability to fly with the bag without any trouble. Which was important, because of what was inside.

To be revealed in time, don't you worry.

The man's hands are covered with heavy gloves. The kind that you wear when it's cold outside and you're trying to retain body heat. Of course, the temperature in South Africa was much warmer than any climate where snow typically fell. He remembered one time when the ground had been covered in frost, and the city had nearly descended into chaos. The same couldn't be said for the higher elevation in the mountains, but you didn't come here for a geography lesson, did you?

It's so quiet that when Jameson unzips the bag, the noise echoes off of the buildings around him. The remaining light in the sky disappears quickly, as though it were running from the chaos that was about to unfold.

Elouise leaned in closely, her fingers trailing up Jameson's chest as she met his gaze. “Actually, I take that back. There are certainly parts of you that I cannot resist…” She whispered, before her eyes lit up and she drew back, chocolate bar successfully thefted.

The memory almost brought a smile to the corner of his mouth, if only because the thought of a much simpler time threatened to bring a sense of relief over him. Months ago, such an image might ignite a feeling of hope. That one day in some far off corner of the world they might be able to be together again.

Today was not one of those days, and this feeling was not so warm.

In his mind was a battle of debauchery and warfare. The thought of Elouise's head on a spike for the sake of Mackenzie fueled little parts of him. He carried a specific need to please her, and not just for the sake of making her happy. Jameson had to indulge her. Needed to bring her satisfaction and joy with his behavior and his actions. Her enemies were his enemies, whether they had wronged him or not. Joined within him in the fight against authority was a very real and very uncontrollable hunger for acceptance.

And it would never come.
But he would never stop fighting for it.
It was, quite literally, in his blood.

From inside his bag he pulled a fully wrapped package. It was roughly the size of a D!ckinson novel, and only weighed about half as much. The paper on the outside was a plain, golden color. Somehow it nearly matched the hue of Elouise's blonde hair. Attached was a second letter. The same paper and script as the one before. Except this one has been affixed to the package with a bow, in a color that matched the bloody ink.

So We must meet apart –
You there – I – here –
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are – and Prayer –
And that White Sustenance –
Despair –


Inside the box - a souvenir. Two forefingers that seemed to belong to the same hand... Impossible. Old. Embalmed. Nearly decomposed except for a thin layer of skin that was somehow both green, brown, and still resembled flesh. Long ago they'd belonged to reanimated corpses that walked the streets below where he stood now, up high above the world.

Trigger and Gunner.

Nestled beneath the fingers was a credit-card shaped object. No... It was a card. Roughly an eighth of an inch thick and plated in silver. A thin, black strip decorated the back. One might think that it had long been de-magnetized but they'd be wrong. There was no room number. Instead, in a terribly plain script on the front it read;

The Ritz Club

A members only hotel in London.
Elouise might not recognize the name, but she'd recognize the location as one of the first destinations they'd traveled to together. Jameson had tried his best to mix business with pleasure and failed. But it had been the staple of a building block in their relationship.


You're a pretty princess too, Lameson.
April 26, 2018 10:21 pm

Elouise Warrock

Elouise had always had a compromised psyche. She was the product of a failed marriage, raised by a single mother who was more interested in Elouise as a tool than as a daughter. She had lived a sheltered life, on a commune of people as cold and calculated as Trista Warrock had been, left to fend for herself in the wilderness of her isolation. She had been born alone, and subsequently learned to fend for herself. She lacked basic soft skills, and found it extremely difficult to relate towards others.

When Camille Rameau invited her to Bloemfontein, she had reluctantly accepted. Elouise wasn’t cut out for forced socialization, and the idea of living on another compound, admittedly, struck fear in her heart. But something about the angel appealed to her, perhaps it was her drugged gummies and generally free-wheeling lifestyle that calmed Elouise down. One mind find it hilarious to think that Camille’s presence was grounding, but she did bring Elouise down to Earth.

Camille had set the standard early on that one should be friendly to Solitude’s newest members. And it was just two years ago that Elouise first laid eyes on Jameson Orlav. She didn’t take stock of his good looks, nor his obvious charm. She was, and continued to be for some time, an overgrown child. She spent her days eating with a pittance of a diet and consuming copious amounts of liquor and drugs. She would have been set to henceforth ignore Jameson Orlav’s existence until the end of time, if it hadn’t of been for Camille.

The orders had been delivered, and Elouise was to go uncover the perpetrator of the disappearance of the sanctuary’s kept zombies, and she’d have to babysit Jameson along the way (absolutely reserve scenario). Jameson was late, and pompous, and Elouise, in all of her great humor, had provided him with the necessary products to dye his hair blonde. She was amused with herself, even after he’d safely deposited the bag of goodies into the nearest trash receptacle.

She remembered so vividly that first day with him, in his boots and jeans and leather jacket, so overdressed for the weather it was hilarious. He had been set to crack into Elouise’s reserved manner, and she refused to let him in. It didn’t matter that he’d almost gotten her eaten by a loose zombie. It mattered even less, frankly, that he’d lost his favorite leather jacket to the zombie they’d later known as ‘Trigger’. He’d dragged her to the top of a crumbling skyscraper. 1566.

He’d somehow convinced her to sit on the edge, overlooking the city as it spread out in its vast expanse. He’d even managed to get minor details out of her. One might say it was a victory.

After that day, he’d never left her alone again. And she didn’t mind. In time, he’d easily become the single most important person in her life. A constant fixture, and an absolute necessity.

He had somehow managed to carve out a place for himself in her heart, an admittedly difficult task. He’d employed patience, gravitas, and Taco Bell. They were both, in varying levels, emotionally incompetent. But like puzzle pieces, their edges fit together.

Jameson had gone out, quite literally the day after they’d first kissed, and purchased an engagement ring. And then, under false pretenses, invited her on a whirlwind trip to London. He’d had to go for business, but planned to overwhelm Elouise into agreeing to marry him (the best course of action, clearly).

Except things went awry, as they always do. The jealousy. The dramatics. The drunken fueled bender. And somewhere, in the middle of it all, a wedding neither of them could recall. The morning after, Jameson had pieced together all that had transpired while Elouise was nauseously hungover. And then, very unceremoniously woke her up.

She wasn’t prepared for it then, admitting she loved him. And she’d thrown the ring at him. Rejected him completely. She’d never been good at expressing herself, and in the middle of her existential crisis had nearly thrown away the thing most important to her.

But Jameson, as always, was patient. And his forgiveness came with sliding the ring back onto her finger, where it would stay until her then pregnant fingers swelled too much to allow it to stay. And from that point forward, it hung around her neck.

It all felt like another life to Elouise, especially as she took a brief detour to Solitude’s old compound. She’d managed to get into the old space, footsteps echoing down the empty halls. She entered the room that was once hers, and later theirs. The space held so many memories, of pranks, of movie nights, of mornings spent ignoring the sunlight and snuggling in onesies until Elouise’s complaints of hunger won Jameson over. It was bliss.

She took her time there (after all, she has all of it to spend), walking from room to room, remembering the friends she’d once had residing there. It had been months since she’d spoken to Camille. Longer since Caitlyn. She felt a pang of nostalgia in her chest, existing once again in the space where it had all started, knowing she could never return to such simple beginnings.

But after a few hours, the haunting memories of what her life had once been felt crushing, the good memories masked by all of the horror she had known since that time. Before she departed the compound (for perhaps the very last time), she opened the closet doors of her old bedroom, knowing fully well tucked safely behind a ceiling panel was a decent stash of weed and amphetamines she’d left behind. When she procured the old cigar box that should have contained her goodies, she found nothing of what she expected. Camille must have gotten to it long before. The angel had known about it, surely. But what she did discover made her needless breath hitch. A photo, tucked into the lining of the box, almost easily missed.  She smiled, even laughed for a few seconds. But she was quickly silent. Brooding. Drawing back the moment the photo was taken.

She had prattled into his office, hangry as usual. After admonishing him for not loving her enough to feed her, he’d agreed to take her out for dinner. And thus, the reluctant photo was procured. Never mind that it had been a more than enjoyable time spent (which he would never admit), Elouise had gotten her tacos and dollar ‘ritas. All about those ice cold marg’s.

Elouise forced herself to the skyscraper off the beaten path of the rest of the city, abandoned, decayed buildings left to collapse upon themselves until time necessitated the space be leveled and more infrastructure raised in its place. She wondered how soon it would be until this space of solace no longer existed, and in its place a strip mall. Or strip joint. Probably the latter.

She stood on the street below for a few moments, eventually willing herself to reach the top. And at the top, once again with the sun setting as it had that formative evening they’d spent together, she discovered a box and affixed note. She had no f*cking clue what Jameson was up to, nor what he hoped to accomplish in forcing her to travel every inch of the world in search of something, perhaps not even him.

If he was seeking to crush her will before taking her unlife, he was well on his way. With every forced step back into what they’d once lived together, Elouise broke apart piece by piece, just a bit more here and there with every bit of nostalgia.

And The Ritz Club. It was like being gutted, going back to the hotel where their life together truly began. But she would go, after taking the time to pull over the fingers she knew belonged to Trigger and Gunner. It seemed Jameson was committed to dredge up every minute detail of their relationship, every facet, every sacred, untouched part of their love and devolve the magic that remained of it.

All of the love she felt in her chest was quickly winding up to rage in the pit of her stomach with every step towards him on this twisted scavenger hunt. She felt like that day he’d sprayed her with watered-down orange juice. Humiliated, defeated, but not without plans for retaliation.

'What are you saying, Ellie? You hope to be Mrs. Orlav one day?'

April 28, 2018 12:22 am
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