The setup: Far in our future, the magical and non-magical peoples of the earth are trying to sign a really important peace accord. Everyone from fiery djinn to ordinary humans (the “Ever-Dying” thanks to our relatively short lifespans) are in attendance.
The speaker: Notte is 15,000 years old, the father of all vampires, called Night Children, and he’s more than a little frightening.
The listener: Notte spots a human politician carrying her infant son. This politician is totally based on Italian politician Licia Ronzulli, who brings her baby to parliament with her.
What a beautiful infant! May I hold your son?
Of course, I understand your reticence. Perhaps I should explain my request here, now, on the eve of such important doings.
I cannot create children in the ordinary way.
Oh, I am perfectly capable of the process which ordinarily leads to new members of one’s species, but my engagement in that activity cannot produce a child.
I have tried, you see.
Many of my own children have tried, as well; I am not the only one grieving the loss of this skill. In fact, I have made it a point to ask all potential “converts” of mine if they are willing to forgo having children of their own (in the usual fashion, that is). I watch carefully for their response.
Many humans need to procreate and parent. Fewer – though still many – require that the object of parenting be the result of their own personal intimate activities. Some – fewer than I’d like – can be content with parenting those who did not come from their loins.
All, regardless of gender or sexual inclination, eventually grieve the loss. I have never known a Night Child made barren by adoption into my family who did not in time regret their inability to create offspring of their own.
I do not know why this is.
What I do find curious is the time span. Sometimes, my children do not experience this grief until centuries have passed, which makes me wonder if this instinct required some kind of maturity to express; but many who are childless by choice are perfectly adult and mature, so that theory does not hold water. Truly, I have few answers for many of my observational questions.
Regardless, barrenness is a grief I share and know very well. This permits me to share their grief with them. There is a time to grieve alone, to be sure, but all grief cries out to be communicated and understood. Burdens always weigh less when shared.
What was the point of this conversation? Why did I begin it? Well, my friend, this may seem strange to you, but even though I am well advanced in years, today is a day I find myself grieving that loss. If I could make children in the usual way, I would.
I know I had them once. Before the unknown process which was used to create me made its mark in the world, I had a wife and, I think, three children.
I cannot recall my wife’s face. I do not know her name, either, but a face is significantly more intimate than syllables which can change. I do not know what she looked like, apart from the knowledge that she was young. At great cost to myself, I have recovered a faded memory of skin the color of mine, and of small, supple breasts still palm-sized in spite of creating sustenance for three tiny human beings. I remember a birthmark on her left hip, roughly the size and shape of a ripened blackberry; but her face and voice are lost to me.
I have a theory why. I believe when my brain was altered, when the magic used to ruin my memory and reduce me to a careless monster of hunger and blood, my most cherished memories were taken first and most thoroughly.
Her face. Her name. Gone.
My children… I did not know them well. I suspect I paid little attention to their needs; beside the fact that feeding and providing for my small family required much of my time, I believe I took their existence as utterly for granted. Everyone had children. I’d likely have more. What did it matter?
I am ashamed to consider this now, but even I was young and immature once. Or twice, in my case.
I do know the middle boy had my curly hair.
I also know the business to which I dedicated myself involved the charting and worship of stars. This led to being out at night, far from the fortified safety of walls and people, vulnerable to being taken.
And as I was taken, so were my memories. You do not want to know the cost of obtaining even these few.
I say this to explain why I wish to hold your infant son.
I do not blame you for fear and suspicion at my request; I have never behaved duplicitously with you, but you are indelibly and persistently aware that humans are my prey. Yours is a natural and reasonable reticence. But my friend… I do not hunt small children.
Please. Only for a moment. Let me hold your child.
Have I shown too much vulnerability today? This is not surprising; the older I am, the more I find others view my age and power with the assumption that I have somehow grown beyond the need for such things as physical contact.
Age does not diminish needs. Not like that. I will not and never would harm your infant child.
Ah. Babies always smell the same! Generations pass, methods for cleaning and clothing change, but their precious, powdery scent remains.
Here. Your speeding heart rate is disconcerting! I hand him back.
These tears? Yes, they are real. You thought they’d be bloody and not clear? You’ve read too many fantasy novels!
A word of advice, my friend, from one who has seen such lives and times as can neither be written down nor believed: treasure the little, normal, everyday moments. Take none for granted. They are more precious than you know, and even if your lifespan go beyond an average human one, you never know which moments will be gone tomorrow, to never be experienced again, to never again darken the doorstep of your life.
It is time. The audience awaits, and I believe Libya’s president has finally arrived. It is time to sign the Accords, clarifying our united interest in peace between what remains of the Seven Peoples.
I am certainly eager to promote peace and protect the fragile but highly armed People known as Ever-Dying. Yes, partially for prey for my blood-born family, but also for far more than that.
Your short, brilliant lives remind even the most ancient of us what is beautiful. After all, what is life but beauty painted in broad, ugly strokes across a canvas of tears and sorrow and success?
Behind the curtain lies the future. You have your son, so I shall hold the curtain open for you. Here. On we go. The future, with all its fragility and hope, awaits.