Blogophilia 43.10 – Zuri Part 3
It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blog. This week’s prompts are:
And this week we have the conclusion to Zuri, which aside from needing some punchy phrasing I was happy with. In other news, the data restoration/PC place thinks they can fix/recover 100% of my data for… drum roll… $1100. No, that is not a typo. Luckily, my father has volunteered to make a gift of it (via his credit card) as a stand in for the next several birthday presents. As my data is worth never getting a birthday present again, I can only say thank you a billion times. So now I just wait for it to be done and all sent back to me.
When that happens it will be like Christmas, which gives new meaning to ‘Twas the night before Christmas. Or not. I couldn’t work the prompt in any other way.
Anyway, got my 20 year old cat back from the vet. Have to give her fluid treatments every day and limit her physical activity. That should be interesting.
And now the conclusion of Zuri:
“You’re an Executioner, then?” John asked. Zuri’s reply was a grunt, so he went on. “I imagine your vampire experience has been pretty…bloody. But I have to say mine hasn’t been traumatic. It’s actually been pretty nice.”
“It would be, being turned by your mother, I imagine. No loss, no old life left behind. That’s not how they used to do things.” He stopped before he sounded like an old man complaining about how the kids did things “these days”. “You haven’t been immortal long, have you?”
“Ten years now. I guess that’s nothing compared to you and everything you’ve seen.”
“Sometimes I think I’ve seen too much.” Zuri finished the drink and sat the glass on the bar. “Eh, ignore me. It’s just this sitting around that’s getting to me.”
“So you said.” John gave him a good humored wink, as if to say, “Sure.”
“It is,” Zuri insisted. “I’m not used to the inaction. There’s only twelve of us for the whole damn country. Did you know that? Twelve. So we’re always gone. An Executioner is lucky to spend a day sleeping in their own bed, let alone five. It’s just not normal.”
“I could see that, if you’re not used to it.”
John shrugged as he refilled the glass. “Still, it has to be a little bit nice, not having to do all that stuff you said.”
“The killing children and all that. It seems kinda wearisome.”
Wearisome. It was an interesting word choice. Was it wearisome? He knew some of the Executioners found it all exhilarating – or ex-Executioners, he should say. They’d pretty much left with Malick, hadn’t they? The ones that remained…how did they feel about it? How did he feel?
I don’t know.
The answer was an uncomfortable one, the kind that should lead one to soul searching. But Zuri didn’t feel like searching his soul – if he even had one anymore. Many vampires believed that they shed that with their mortality.
“Still, maybe it’s better than whatever trauma they think you suffered.”
“You’re right about that, though I don’t want to talk about it.”
John chuckled. “I figured that. Can’t say I blame you. Hey, you know what you should do? Now that you have some time off, you should take up a hobby.”
Zuri paused, the glass halfway to his mouth. “A hobby? Like what?”
“I don’t know. There must be something you’re interested in.”
“I’ve probably quit more hobbies than you ever dreamed of starting,” Zuri murmured.
“Just a suggestion.”
Zuri downed the drink and John turned to some task – why would he want to do that? Why spend immortality serving vampires? Washing glasses, wiping tables, mixing blood and spices? Why not coast on the good life? Put his feet up, relax, have some fun?
Right, like I do. I can’t even stand five days without an assignment.
It was another soul searching moment he didn’t care for, so he finished his drink, paid his bill, and headed back to his apartment. Maybe there would be something worth watching on TV.
Zuri dug through the closet. Boxes held remnants from his past; things he’d once been interested in and then gotten bored with. A chunk of wood was at the bottom of one, half carved into a turtle. He’d done a lot of woodcarving once upon a time, when things had been quieter. Then the world sped up. They started driving automobiles instead of taking the train or riding a horse. Things happened faster, with less time to just sit and wait, and the hobby had fallen by the wayside.
Zuri set the partial turtle aside and dug out the old wood carving set. The blades were rusty, which meant he’d have to make a trip to the shopping area. Was it worth all that?
Though he wasn’t sure, he had nothing better to do, and he had money to burn.
At least being an Executioner paid well.
Bed time found Zuri with a new set of tools, but no will to actually do the work. It was late, anyway, so he changed into a pair of pajama pants and climbed into bed. The blankets were soft, and the pillow fluffy, but when he closed his eyes he saw the dark room in Oren’s war den, heard the distant murmuring of the occupants, and felt the phantom ache in his arms.
It’s over, he told himself. It’s over, it’s done with, and it doesn’t matter. You’re too old for this. Too strong for this. You’re not a wimp, not like one of these young vampires.
Despite the pep talk, sleep remained hard to find, and when he did, his dreams were more memory than fiction.
“Is he awake?”
Zuri blinked against the blurriness that sucked him down. He was so tired, so…so…thirsty. His throat burned so bad. If he could just have a drink…just one drink…
“I think he’s out still,” another voice said. It sounded like Fabian.
“Good. It will make it easier for you to put his arms back.”
Put my arms back? My arms? My…my…
Right. They were gone. He’d seen that the last time he’d woken up. Or maybe the time before that. It was all a confusing smear punctuated with burning thirst. He just needed a drink…
“Me? You’re the one who wants to put them back! I say leave them off.”
Zuri forced his eyes to focus and saw his dark haired captor and another vampire; one who looked like a fairytale prince, complete with ruffled shirt.
“Idiot.” The prince sneered. “How can we bargain with him if he’s ruined? They need to be reattached for a few hours, at least.”
Fabian scoffed. “You’re just saying that because Jorick and his monkeys want them back on.”
“I hardly care what Jorick wants, though to my knowledge he doesn’t care either way.”
“Right. That’s why Loren and Micah have been chattering about putting them back? They’re Jorick’s mouthpieces, just like you!”
With a snarl, the prince-like vampire grabbed Fabian by the front of his shirt and slammed him into the wall. “Say such things again and I will cut out your tongue. I swore an oath to Oren, not to you.” He flung Fabian aside and straightened his shirt. “Now replace his arms. Tomorrow you can remove them again, if it suits you, but they can’t remain unattached for more than a day or two at a time, or they’ll wither. Malick will not bargain for a ruined Executioner. Remember that.”
He strode out the door, leaving Fabian to snarl after him, “One of these days, Traven, I’m going to kill you.”
Zuri moaned softly as Fabian jerked open a nearby box. The scent of old blood wafted out; and though Zuri knew it was his own blood, the smell drove his hunger. He needed a drink. Oh God, he needed a drink…
Fabian snarled and jerked a dagger from his pocket. He grabbed the left stump of Zuri’s arm, just a few inches below the shoulder. Though he hadn’t fed, sleep had healed him, and the skin had grown over the severed bones and muscles, leaving a perfectly smooth nub.
“Fucking Traven wants this done, next time he can do it himself.”
Zuri saw the flash of the blade, and then the pain came as Fabian cut the skin away. Zuri tried to fight, tried to kick and struggle loose, but he was too weak. His fight came to barley more than a flinch, and his cries to a dry gurgle in his throat. They’d drained him of blood and left him that way to keep him weak, to stop him from escaping, from defending himself.
Fabian peeled the skin away to leave exposed bones and muscle. Zuri’s rattles turned into dry screams. The scent of his own blood left his heart pounding, and the pain from his arms burned like fire. He knew his reaction only fueled Fabian and made him feel more in control. He needed to hold it in, to stoically accept, to-
The logic died as Fabian cut into the other arm, slicing skin. Zuri squeezed his eyes shut and howled, though the sound was more like the wind through a tin can. Fabian ignored it as he fetched the withered arms. With another snarl, he lashed them in place, lining up bones and gory meat. Zuri tried to move, though he knew it was futile. It would take blood or sleep for the skin and muscles to grow again, knitting back together as they did. Blood they weren’t likely to give him.
“Don’t get used to them,” Fabian snapped. “They’re coming off again.”
Zuri didn’t bother to try to reply. With a scoff, Fabian kicked him in the ribs, then stormed out.
The world swam, wavered, then faded to black. It came back studded with pain, and he opened his eyes to see Fabian there again, cutting through his arm with a hacksaw.
“Is that really necessary?” a teenage vampire asked.
“Have you forgotten who this is? What this is? This is an Executioner! A demon from hell! It was his kind that killed my sister! I will not rest until he suffers – until they all suffer and die, screaming, like she died!”
His sister. Oren’s wife. Right. Zuri had been there. He’d been there but he wasn’t the one that killed her, the one who had to kill her, because she’d made those illegal children, hadn’t she? There was even a baby, an immortal baby, trapped forever. That was a sin, that was…that was…
He lost touch with his thoughts, lost touch with the world. There was only the pain as they cut his arms free, the sound as they slammed them back in that box, the snicker as Fabian promised they might never go back again.
But they did. The skin was peeled away from the stubs and the arms reattached, only to be cut free again. He didn’t know how many times it had happened, only that the last time was there, at the citadel, in the medical facility.
And that time he’d had enough blood in him to scream.
He jerked awake with a start. His heart pounded and the familiar agony burned through his arms. He rubbed them, as if that would chase away the remembered pain, the remembered fear…
As if anything could ever take that away.
Zuri felt instinctively that the sun was down. Thirst burned his throat. Though not as violent as in his memories, it was enough to get him dressed and out the door. He stopped in at a café, ordered a large decanter, and took off, dodging the casual attention of the other patrons. He didn’t want their stares – or their company.
He retreated to his apartment and his half-carved turtle. A hobby, John had suggested. Sure. Why not? He took a seat and selected the tools, now foreign in his unpracticed hands. His cuts were clumsy, and rather than making him feel better, the work made him feel worse. When the chisel bit into his thumb, he swore and threw it all across the room.
Sucking the cut, he stomped over woodchips and out the door. His feet led him to the elevator, and finally to the empty club. John was in his usual place, sorting through a rack of spices and syrups.
“Welcome back! If you stick around tonight you can see Lua’s performance.”
Zuri snorted his opinion and took the glass John set in front of him. He wasn’t really thirsty now; he’d downed the whole decanter earlier, but he sipped at it anyway.
John went back to his work, humming, while Zuri waited for him to strike up a conversation. It was just a matter of time. Any minute now…
When the seconds stretched, Zuri decided it was better to do it himself than to wait. Right. Better to just get it over with. Sure. Not like I want someone to talk to.
“You’re too cheerful.”
John chuckled. “I have a lot to be happy about, I guess. You do too, I’m sure.”
Zuri scoffed, “Like what?”
“You’re here, in the best club in the citadel, huh?” John laughed and then turned serious. “But you are here. Alive. If not family, you have friends.”
“Sure. You see them all sitting here.” Zuri motioned to the empty space.
“Do you see mine?” John asked. “They may not be here, but that they’re here.” He touched his heart. “You’re feeling miserable now, but it will end. You just have to have the patience to fight through to the other side. There’s always light just beyond the horizon.”
“Yeah? Where was my light when I was held prisoner for twelve days? Starved, tortured, left by my so-called ally? Huh?”
John blinked away his surprise quickly. “You got away, didn’t you? I mean, you’re not a prisoner now. Except in here.” He tapped the side of his head.
Zuri growled low. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Take it however you want.” The bartender rubbed his hands together. “Sure you don’t want to see Lua?”
He grunted his opinion, and, with a shrug John grabbed a rag and moved to wipe tables.
Zuri gulped his drink and focused on the shiny glasses behind the bar, then on that neatly stacked rack of flavorings. When had vampires started adding flavor to blood? How long did the thrill of the hunt, of the kill last, before it became something you just did to survive, like eating had once been? Just a chore you needed to do in order to keep chugging on.
Like everything else.
John returned to rinse his rag, and Zuri paid his bill. He wasn’t in the mood for the cheerfulness, or the clever quips. Light beyond the horizon… only a prisoner in his head…Pfft. As if.
He stomped back to his apartment and snatched the half-carved turtle from the floor. It looked at him with accusing eyes – eyes that screamed, “You were a prisoner for twelve days, but you’ve left me one for how many decades? Trapped, half-formed, unrealized.”
“And what should I do, huh? Look at this.” He jabbed the newest cut with a finger. “It looks like crap.”
But the wooden eyes didn’t care. With a snarl – maybe anger at the turtle, or anger at himself – he dropped into the chair and grabbed his tools. The cuts were clumsy, chunky, obvious from the older, smoother work. Still, he kept at it, dropping wood chips around his feet. The minutes slipped past, then the hours. Zuri paused to survey the nearly complete turtle. He supposed he should thank John for the hobby suggestion, not that he felt like thanking him for anything just then. Tonight’s comments had irritated him in an almost irrational way.
He turned back to the work, running over the conversation in his head. Friends. Light beyond the horizon. Sure, he was alive, but so what? Sure, he wasn’t a prisoner of the war coven anymore, but he was still a prisoner – a real prisoner – stuck in the damn citadel, forced to look at the same rooms night after night, reliving the same agonizing memories-
In my head.
That was where the reoccurring memories were, where the cycle kept repeating, where he was really trapped.
“You’re not a prisoner now. Except in here.”
John was right.
With that thought, the last of the wood fell away, and he cradled the turtle in his large hand. Though imperfect, the wooden creature was free of the block, of his prison. The time he’d spent stuck in limbo showed, from the difference in the quality, to the subtle colors of old and new cut wood. He was forever marked by the years he’d been trapped.
Just as I am. Though he wanted to pretend it hadn’t affected him, those days of imprisonment had left their mark; not just the nightmares, and the memories, but a secret, burning fear in the pit of his brain, a fear that it would all happen again. The kind of fear that made you kill first and ask questions later, the same kind of fear that had driven other Executioners over the years. Executioners like Senya, who would run, terrified tail between her legs, rather than try to help a colleague.
The kind of fear Eileifr didn’t want making decisions anymore.
And that was why he was on recuperation leave. Not as a punishment, but a precaution. It wasn’t something he should hate, or fear, but something he should embrace. Just as he needed time to hone his skills and make that turtle smooth again, so he needed time to heal inside, to make himself smooth again.
But in the meantime, he needed to remember one thing; the most important thing. No matter how it had happened, or what it had left behind, now, just like the turtle, he was free.
And now for guesses:
Picture 1: Colleen
1. a lot of bottles 2. Oh Christmas tree. 3. O Tannenbaum 4. bright light 5. see how is sparkles 6. this tree is makin’ me thirsty 7. the day after the christmas party 8. I wouldn’t want that hangover. 9. how lovely are your bottles 10. they must not have bottle deposits.
photo 2: Myke
- dashing through the snow. 2. here comes santa claus 3. jingle bells. 4. one moose open sleigh 5. or is that a reindeer? do they get that big? 6. They have reindeer herders in Finland. 7. where’s rudolf? 8. Is this comet or cupid? 9. Prancer or vixen? 10. Maybe Blitzen or Dasher? Isn’t there a dancer? And Donner is rudolf’s dad…