3.56 – Chloe, Humanitarian

3.56 – Chloe, Humanitarian

“Glad to see you’re awake. Would you like some water, champagne, wine, beer? We have just about everything back here.”

I don’t recognize the voice and when it greets me and playing sleep seems pointless. I don’t recognize the person in front of me any more than the voice. A brunette woman with almost ghostly white hands, but her face is a much smoother peach color, hair tied back in a ponytail, with a smile that shows just enough of her teeth to notice the fangs. She's wearing a maroon power suit, but also enough jewelry to make a preacher want to rob her. We’re in the back of a limousine, the windows are tinted too dark for me to see through. On my left is a bald man big enough to be a body builder, less pale, but even with his scowl I can tell he’s a vampire too. Probably a bodyguard or something. I don’t know enough vampires that would make me a target. Probably someone looking for Destiny, no, I’m sure of it. My mind runs down the options quickly and it comes to me right away. This is Chloe. This is who Destiny has been looking for.

“Figured it out,” she asks with a smile and charming tone.

“Chloe Marson.”

“Chloe, but I’m not a Marson until after the wedding. You can just call me Chloe.”

“What did you do to Destiny,” as if I’m not in danger.

“Nothing at all. This is all about you,” she pats my knee reassuringly.

“I’ve got nothing to say to you,” the body guard doesn’t take kindly to my words and glares at me.

“Relax Erik, he’s harmless,” Chloe waves her hand.

“He has killed several of our people,” Erik speaks in a surprisingly alto voice.

“Look at him. Are you afraid of him,” Erik looks me up and down in response to her question. “No offense, but I've seen some nasty customers and you aren’t one,” Chloe speaks to me now.

“Why am I here?”

“I just want you to see we aren’t the monsters you’ve been told about. Show you a different perspective than Destiny’s warped memories.”

She’s not the mean demon I was expecting, but I still get a bad vibe from her. She’s got an ulterior motive and even if she isn’t attacking, I know it won’t last long. I’m pretty sure she brought the body guard just so she seemed less threatening. The two of them have mild discussions about different places they like to visit. I avoid joining in until the vehicle comes to a stop. I grab the door handle, but it’s locked.

“Don’t rush,” Chloe mocks me. “We’ve got a lot to see.”

The door opens and yet another obvious vampire. This one dressed like a stereotypical vehicle chauffeur, white gloves, hat and all. We’re outside of a plain looking building surrounded by trees that look haunted and flowers that are probably much more colorful during the day, but look like dripping blood at night. A playground is visible off to the side. The whole thing looks like an elementary school if it were haunted by Casper the Twisted Ghost. It doesn’t exactly conjure up wonderful thoughts of learning and imagination.

“Welcome to the Marson Home for Lost Youth,” a personal project of my own.

“What is this place?”

“Follow me,” Chloe leads expecting me to follow.

I don’t follow, instead I try to gather my surroundings and look for an escape route if I wanted to take off and run. Erik gives me a nudge from behind and quickly ends any hopes of that. I follow Chloe inside, and despite the dreary outside appearance, the inside doesn’t look any stranger than a normal daycare. I don’t frequent a lot of daycares, but I imagine they all have bright colors and patterns decorating the walls. Maybe a cartoon character here or there. The difference is its almost pitch-black outside and there are kids running around inside.

Actually, there’s another difference. Some of these kids, most of them, don’t look human at all. A few of them have fangs, one has tusks, another has scales and yet another has red eyes with no pupils. There’re human children mixed in as well but they don’t seem bothered by the appearances of the other children, in fact I seem to be the only person who feels out of place here. Chloe drops to her knees and hugs some of the children while Erik flexes with some of the others hanging off his biceps. Either the kids are really good actors or they actually like these two.

“Who are you,” one of the kids asks me.

“He’s a very special friend of mine,” Chloe answers before I can.

“Is he going to come back and play with us?”

“Maybe he will,” Chloe smiles. “He has to ask his girlfriend,” Chloe winks to the kids.

“A girlfriend,” one of the children shouts causing the others too make kissy faces before running off.

“What is this place,” I ask.

“Follow me,” Chloe asks, this time I don’t hesitate.

A few of the children tag along, like her little bodyguards. We visit the kitchen where meals are prepared. Inside they’re working with ingredients I’d never use; blood, rotting fish, and fermented fruits are all on the menu. It makes sense that all of these kids would have different dietary needs. We visit a few of the classrooms where the children get educated. The sleeping quarters use the same kind of magic as the Grand Library, dozens of rooms tucked away behind a single door with no logical explanation of how they all fit. Despite the tour she doesn’t tell me what the place is until all of the children have gone to have dinner, or is it lunch for them?

“This is an orphanage of sorts. We provide a home for children who have been abandoned. Some are born vampires, the true primes who will lead us into the future. Others are part troll or Orc, left to die by parents who viewed them as disfigured. A few are the children of dead thralls, who died in pointless fights” she lets that hang as if I’m responsible.

“I don’t need you to guilt trip me, I do just fine on my own.”

“I sincerely apologize if you felt I was trying to insult you.” Chloe covers her heart with her hand and seems sincere, almost.

“Can I go home now?”

“I’d like to show you something else, but it is on the way to your home,” Chloe almost floats out of the room.

We stop so she can say goodbye to the children, who do seem to genuinely like her, and Erik. Part of me can’t help but wonder how many of these children were orphaned by the Marson family. I’ve got everything Destiny has told me, and I’ve got my research. How many of these children will be sent away to be sold as property. Are they treated well because they’ll provide some purpose in the future, or is this all a genuine facility hoping to help some kids with nowhere else to go?

The ride to our next location is much more talkative, from Chloe’s side at least. She rants and raves about some of her favorites. How she was surprised when they approved the opening of the orphanage. Erik even gloats about how the kids have been following the exercise routines he laid out for them. I can’t tell how much of this is them trying to convince me they’re good and how much is legit. Maybe they do like those kids, and are proud of their growth, but they’re still using them. If not to take over the world or whatever in the future, then to at least change my mind about them. What did they call it during the Vietnam War? Minds and Souls, no Hearts and Minds, where they try to win over the people as a way to win the war. They think they’re going to win me over and change things, but there is no war to win.

“We’re here,” Chloe says as the car comes to a stop and she gazes out the window.

I still can’t see out the windows like they can, is it some kind of vampire power? Outside I instantly recognize this as a blood bank. Not the one Destiny likes, but a blood bank none the less, although this is much bigger than the one, I’ve been to. I don’t wait for a push this time, and just follow Chloe. I’m eager to get this all wrapped up and behind me.

“I’ve been to a blood bank before. Are we done,” I’m tired and my patience is wearing thin.

“Maybe, but this is special,” she swipes her card at a door and leads us through the halls.

So far, there’s nothing special about this place, people giving blood, some tests being run. Seeing how different snacks and beverages are made is interesting, but I’m not impressed. This doesn’t show me anything good about the Marson family other than all of their businesses don’t operate on slave labor.

“Can you just tell me the special magic behind this place already,” I ask after the third different kind of cookie.

“Oh, you’re no fun,” Chloe pouts as if she’s trying to be cute.

I always dislike women like that. Women who think being childlike makes them attractive. The baby voices, the whimpering, crossed arms and pouting faces. What’s the deal with all that? I know she’s an immortal vampire but she looks to be at least thirty-five. She can’t just act like an adult? She has to be Charlie and The Blood Factory? Actually, she’d be Willy Wonka, and I’d be Charlie. Either way, I’m tired and I’m ready to go home.

“The secret here is we don’t charge for the blood. Vampires who don’t belong to a family or have other lucrative careers sometimes can’t afford to drink. They can sometimes become violent when blood starved, this is an alternative. It keeps them from feeding on innocent civilians,” I hate the word civilians coming out of her mouth as if it is a dirty thing. “The other secret is most of our donors are addicts and with a little magic, the drugs are flushed out of their system much faster and easier than going through withdrawals.”

“You have some really noble causes,” that comes out more sarcastic than I meant it too. “Sorry, I didn’t mean for it to come out that way.”

“No harm done. I know this isn’t what you expected of us, but we all had lives before this one. I was once an orphan, and I’ve been addict as well.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Destiny hadn’t mentioned it.”

“No worries, I hadn’t expected her to tell you the details of my life,” Chloe pauses, “She probably hasn’t told you all the details of her own. That’s just the way she is.”

The ride back wasn’t super quiet. Chloe was going on and on about the good times that she and Destiny had when they were friends. I get the feeling that they were a lot more than friends. From what Chloe told me she had run away from home as a child and gotten hooked on drugs, but was rescued by a vampire. Eventually that vampire died and Chloe was left alone, eventually meeting Destiny. I don’t know how much of it was true, I’m not great at reading people, especially people I don’t know well. Chloe might really be a nice person, but I’ve seen cracks in the façade tonight. We stop outside of Destiny’s apartment building. I forgot I was leaving there when they grabbed me. Maybe they don’t know where I live, or think we live together. Maybe that’s good.

“Before you leave, I’d like to suggest you cut Destiny loose. You seem like a good man, and staying around her will only end up poorly for you,” Chloe stops me from exiting the vehicle.

“I think I’ll be able to handle whatever comes my way,” Erik chuckles at my statement.

“I have no doubt about that. But, you don’t have to have anything come your way. If you wish to learn more about the underworld or the arcane, we have people for that. It can be a painless process, and transition for you. None of this broken by werewolves, brawls in the mall, watching your friends die. One foot out and one foot in is nonsense, it’ll only get you and your loved ones killed,” I can read her now, this is condescending, far from caring.

“You know, you all aren’t the monsters Destiny said you were. The thing is, you are who you are when nobody is looking. I’ve seen the things you all do, not just the good, but the bad. You sent people to kill me and a bunch of my friends not too long ago. That brawl in the mall, was something you all did. There’s no war, we’re just two people trying to live our lives. If you just left us alone, I could convince her to ignore you all as well. But you just keep poking at us. Inviting us to buildings so your fiancé can throw money in our faces. You didn’t have to abduct me tonight, I would have come with you willingly. Even this little tour was an exercise in power. I get it, you’re rich and you could end us any time you want. Just leave us alone,” I’m understanding Destiny’s hate for Chloe and her family now.

“I see why she likes you; the same reason she liked me. You’re easy to get fired up, but in the end you’re meek and easy to control. You’re weak, with no intentions of grasping for the power that rests at your fingertips. I understood the world around me and took all the power waiting just outside my reach. Destiny would have done it too, but she’s too good for that, in her mind anyway. You’re going to drown in this world, because you think power is corruption. In reality, power is freedom.”

“I think she liked you because you were probably a good person at one point. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, I’m sure you’ve heard that before. You showed me a lot of nice things tonight, how good you are to people. But it’s all fake, just you trying to remember when you were good,” I smile, not because I’ve gotten her, but out of nervousness. What am I saying?

“You humans, should know your place and understand how fragile you are,” she reaches over and places a hand on my knee and begins to squeeze.

“You were human once, you know how it goes. We’re just all trying to find our balance,” I summon my nightmares.

I don’t want a fight here in the back of a limo. I couldn’t win against two vampires that are probably incredibly strong, in an enclosed space. I just need them to think I’m not afraid despite the fact that I’m ready to pee on myself right now.

“You surprise me,” Chloe releases my leg and knocks on the window for the driver to open the door. “Have a good night Mr. Nielson,” she addresses me by name for the first time tonight.


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