Denied the Stars (Part 3)

If you missed Parts 1+2 you can read them here and here.

“You see, we do not desire to create more of ourselves,” the man said as he pushed his tankard of blood to the side. “Life begets life, and death begets death. But there is enough death in this world, and so we try not to create more of it. If someone is dying we may pull them aside into our world but only if their need to exist is strong enough.”

“How many of you are there?”

“Difficult to say, but not more than a hundred or so. Too many more and we would pass out of legend and into cold reality.”

“But the people here know you.”

“Yes, but what is a small village in the middle of Russia? No one who lives here talks to the outside world, even when the outside world comes to visit like you and your fellow space tourists.”

I thought for a moment, then asked what seemed like an obvious question, though it had only just sprung into my mind, “Then why tell me?”

The man chuckled, “You are a fellow cosmonaut, or will be anyway. For more of an answer you will just have to let me finish my story.”

“I’m sorry, what did Andrei say to you when you woke up?”

“Not much. The strength in my body, my heightened senses told me most of what I needed to know. I thanked him for saving me, but he refused to accept it. He said he did not save me from dying, because it is true that in all the ways that matter we vampires are dead. He merely allowed me to finish what I had started, or so he led me to believe.”

“Our training facility was underground, so the sunlight could not touch me. Again, somehow I knew without it being said that the sun would harm me if it could. I sensed it on the track, which was at the top of the facility and closest to ground level. A heat that threatened to erupt in uncontrollable flame. It is not an easy thing to know the world does not want you to exist. Not the people necessarily, for no one in the training group suspected the change, Andrei had been careful to warn me not to show off my abilities, but the world itself. I do not know where we come from, none of us do, but we are not of nature.”

“The group I was training with was getting ready for a Soyuz mission to our newest space station, Mir. The Salyut 7 was still in orbit, and a crew from one of the first Mir missions had flown over and docked to transfer supplies to the newly christened station. You remember Mir, don’t you? It means ‘peace’ or ‘world’, the ‘peace of the world.’ It still holds the record after all these years for longest continuous human spaceflight, and was able to keep in the sky despite fires, equipment failures, oxygen leaks, and just about anything God could throw at us.”

I nodded, “I remember my parents telling me about it’s de-orbit. How long was it up, 15 years?”

The man nodded in agreement, “Yes, and I wanted to be one of her first crews. I hadn’t stopped to think what the change would mean for me. It is one thing to train with men in a large facility, but quite another to be cramped with them in a tiny capsule. People tend to notice if you’re smuggling an unusual quantity of blood aboard, and it is difficult to keep it fresh.”

“But I did not think of these practical concerns, and even when Andrei explained them to me as I confronted him after seeing the mission postings, I could not accept them. Why had he allowed me to live if he could not give me the thing I sought?”

“I almost ran out of the facility right then. I had trained for years for nothing. God had given me a body that could never meet with my desires, and Andrei had given me the same. Blood is life, and I have always lacked for it.”

“Somehow Andrei caught me before I could open the doors. I had been running at my true speed, but Andrei had been a night walker longer than I and despite a cultivated mid-fifties appearance he had a body as young as mine.”

“‘Our bodies do not deny us the stars my friend. Our road to them is simply different. There are uses for men with our abilities, missions the men you trained with could never hope to achieve.’ Andrei had said.”

“And that was when he introduced me to Lyubov, agent of the KGB.”

To be continued…

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