My brother returned from war a vampire. Some nameless war, lost to time. The only remnant a broken spear buried beneath layers of sand.
He gave me immortality, believing it to be a gift. Cupped my face in his hands, the scent of my blood in the air around us. “Our people think you weak, because you are blind. But now you are stronger than all of them. You will be, forevermore.”
Harsh sands and burning sun give way to softer dirt and cool mists. All these millennia later, and I haven’t forgotten the first time my bare toes touched grass, curling so that the sleek blades gathered against my rough soles.
In that time, the air smelled of smoke from fires, horse manure and sweat. To drink, I gathered water in my hands, felt the clinging grime on my calluses palms and tasted mud on my tongue.
Centuries pass as swiftly as dreams upon waking. The sharp reek of body odor now lurks beneath heady perfume. Dirt roads harden into cobblestones. The crackle of papyrus, stiff beneath my fingers, softens into parchment. Always, I am surrounded by the scent of wet inkwells.
I cross the sea a great many times. Each time, the sway of the waves play havoc with my senses. The creak of the hull lulls me to sleep as surely as the screech of sea gulls wakes me.
My brother and I meet once each decade, crossing continents and seas to arrive at our meeting place. It once was a hamlet, where my brother settled in a thatched-roof hut he’d built himself. Now it has grown into a bustling village, the hut gone and an inn standing in its place.
We meet and speak in hushed voices, our ancient language spilling from our lips and mixing with the warmth of the fire in the hearth. It is sweeter than honey, to speak those words lost to all but my immortal brother and I. I feel a boy again, despite the fact I’ve lost count of my true age.
Memories of scooping water from hoof prints left in the mud fade along with the steam of warm tea against my face. I breathe in the scent of lavender rising from the liquid as it’s poured into its porcelain cup, and cannot believe such luxury exists beyond the realm of the gods.
Languages change. I learn them all, an expert linguist. It becomes a hobby of mine. But familiar words are not all that leave me.
The ring of a blacksmith’s hammer striking iron rises to the screech of a whistle from a factory. The rattle of wooden carriage wheels give way to the muttering of automobile engines.
Rumbles deep in the earth as locomotives barrel down their tracks disappear, replaced by the revving of muscle cars. The warmth of candlelight, the scents of faint smoke and melting wax, fade away to nothingness, assuming the ghostlike presence of electricity.
Just as swiftly, my brother disappears. One year, he does not arrive at the village inn. My letters to his last address go unanswered.
Each decade, the village grows, expanding first into a town, then mutating into the behemoth of a city. Each decade I return, though I know I will not find him. This year, I will return again, sharpening the blade that is my grief.
What am I left with? Heartbeats. Blood. For a vampire, they are the only constants through the centuries. Heartbeats sounds the same. Blood tastes the same. I listen. I feed. Old friends, for a lonely soul such as myself.
But eternity is nothing, compared to the voice of one’s brother whispering a forgotten language with smiling lips. The gods may keep their immortality. I have never felt stronger than when I listened to his voice.
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