Chapter 23 The Ultimatum

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At first, there had been nothing. Nothing at all, not even an awareness of the lack of anything. Then, slowly, a weak sort of perception began to grow from the darkness. A sensation of realizing existence, but completely void of nature or identity. There was also the wanting. The deep need for something yet undefined. The sense of presence, of life, developed into something more as sounds rose all around the mind. Then a pale, blurry light emerged from the nothing. A single color filled this new vision. The color was gray. A flood of memories sparked from the recognition of this single color. Images of storm clouds, sediment, rocks, various metallic objects, and sidewalks formed in the mind. These things swirled into patterns and warped into other colors and images until a spark ignited in his mind. That much was certain. He was a boy, or was he a man? Recollections of times and places as a young boy morphed into visions of events much more complex. He was a man. This knowledge, now acquired, only sped up the process of recall that his brain was fighting its way through.

But a hazy, dark memory brought forth another possibility. The faint impression of feeling sharp fangs pressing against his lips from within his mouth reminded him of a more recent past than his prior remembrance had. He remembered the blood then, and how much he needed it. This also awakened the realization that his sensation of touch had not yet returned.

Wondering if the ability to move was beyond his reach as well, he experimentally attempted to close his eyes. The gray blur before him began to shrink as his eyelids gently closed. Then blackness. He then attempted to raise them. A slightly clearer gray blob started to grow in front of him. He could make out the obscure lines that intersected in rectangles to make a concrete wall. He tried to lift his head then, and almost immediately, the nerves came to life throughout his body as the various muscles worked to allow his movement. Worst of all was the physical twinge of needing the blood, but after a second, it subsided slightly and something else came into focus. A sharp pain in his chest made him gasp for air at the flash of memory it uncovered.

He had been in the desert. He had survived exposure to the sun, even though he’d expected to die. He was not a vampire after all. But why then did he still long for the blood so much? He remembered feeling as though he had been given a second chance. Was that memory a fraud? As the concrete wall came more into focus, a brief moment from his childhood played out in his mind. He was sitting at a desk in a classroom with 20 or so other children, hoping with all of his will that the teacher, Mrs. Vance, would not call on him. Several of the other children had their hands up as she looked around the room with her oval glasses sitting at the tip of her nose, her face filled with eagerness. He knew that eager look, he had seen it many times. She had always looked like this when she wanted to pick on one of the children. And more often than not, he had been her favorite choice to bully. This particular day was no exception. On her fifth round of looking over the classroom, her gaze came to a halt on him and she raised her arm and pointed to him as she took a deep, satisfied breath.

"Hank, why don't you tell us why an empire is a more effective government than any other type in the world? And don't forget to cite examples," the old woman said and then smiled impishly. Before she even finished exhaling, he had lunged at her, bitten deep down into her neck and... No, that was not what happened. Knowing this did not take away the thirst that had just doubled within him.

He gritted his teeth to try to subdue the hunger. Once his mind was as clear as it would get, something sparked from the memory. He was Hank. And it wasn’t human blood he longed for. Knowing this seemed to bring everything back into focus. He could even see clearer and sat up with far less effort than it had taken to simply lift his head. He was sitting on a single slab of concrete in a small rectangular room not much larger than a broom closet. All of the walls were plain gray concrete, and there was a single solid metal door at the far end of the room, beyond the head of his "bed." There were no windows, nor were there any items in the room with him other than the concrete slab he sat upon. He wracked his newly awakened mind for some sort of clue as to where he was. Nothing came, save for that single moment he now knew to be the last thing he could remember. He had been shot. But as he examined his chest, he realized that whatever he had been shot with had not broken the skin. In place of the gaping wound he expected to find there was a purple bruise and a single red point in the middle of it that looked similar to a needle hole. It must have been some sort of tranquilizer.

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