A Thistle among Roses: Part II: Dead in a City that Sleeps

Introduction to A Thistle among Roses
The following text is meant to represent diary excerpts written by my character (Julie “Thistle” Simons) in our current Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle, but there are a few things I would like to say about this project before I set out. To start with, I am entirely new to Vampire and I have been miraculously avoiding the game until very recently. Therefore, it seemed fitting to play a character who knows about as much about the world as I do. She was embraced two weeks prior to play and therefore shares my own confusion and ignorance about what is so cool about vampires.

Furthermore, this is an experiment in writing fiction in English, something I have not done before to any great extent (I cannot remember a single instance, actually). The text is deliberately pretentious in style, which feels somewhat odd, because that is not a style I would ascribe to myself normally. However, I will do my best to capture the world of my character as I perceive it, whilst trying to keep at least some dignity. Any kind of feedback is welcome as long as it is contstrucive and I would like to say thank you to those of you who have already contributed.

Some problems will arise for those of you who are not fluent in Swedish, since I do not intend to reproduce material already existing in Swedish (like information about the other characters, for instance). Apart from that, I hope that the diary will speak for itself, so now the time has come for me to step aside and let Thistle in.

Introduction to A Thistle among Roses
The following text is meant to represent diary excerpts written by my character (Julie “Thistle” Simons) in our current Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle, but there are a few things I would like to say about this project before I set out. To start with, I am entirely new to Vampire and I have been miraculously avoiding the game until very recently. Therefore, it seemed fitting to play a character who knows about as much about the world as I do. She was embraced two weeks prior to play and therefore shares my own confusion and ignorance about what is so cool about vampires.

Furthermore, this is an experiment in writing fiction in English, something I have not done before to any great extent (I cannot remember a single instance, actually). The text is deliberately pretentious in style, which feels somewhat odd, because that is not a style I would ascribe to myself normally. However, I will do my best to capture the world of my character as I perceive it, whilst trying to keep at least some dignity. Any kind of feedback is welcome as long as it is contstrucive and I would like to say thank you to those of you who have already contributed.

Some problems will arise for those of you who are not fluent in Swedish, since I do not intend to reproduce material already existing in Swedish (like information about the other characters, for instance). Apart from that, I hope that the diary will speak for itself, so now the time has come for me to step aside and let Thistle in.

A Thistle among Roses so far
Part I: Omega Alpha
Part II: Dead in a City that Sleeps
Part III: Death and Deliverance

Some useful links
Wikipedia entry on Vampire: the Masquerade
Discussion thread on Rollspel.nu (in Swedish)
Thistle described in that thread (also in Swedish)

Part II: Dead in a City that Sleeps
I was swimming in an ocean of pain, thrashing about, desperately trying to stay afloat. The roiling surface was coloured by my own blood, emanating from a gaping hole in my heart, the centre of my universe. A ghastly light without source lit this inner ocean, revealing to me that there were no shores, no means of escape and no way to end the suffering. But then, suddenly the churning stopped, the light faded and I felt solid ground underneath my feet. As the fluid drained away, so did my strength to fight, and when all support was gone, I found myself lying facedown, a wooden floor expanding farther than I could see.

After what felt like only a few minutes, someone picked me up by the scruff of the neck, and forcing my eyes open to slits, I peered out at yet another nightmare. I seemed to be on some kind of stage with an audience gathered in small groups, some standing together, subdued voices reaching me, but their meaning swallowed by the distance, others sitting around a large table, also engaged in conversation. None of them seemed to care about me. Then I turned my head and saw who, or what, was holding me, and if I’d had a beating heart, the sight would have made it stop dead. His face was the face of a man long dead, bleak cheekbones protruding through the thin scraps that had presumably once been flesh. For a moment, I stared into his eyes, which seemed to have been put into the sockets from somewhere else, not quite fitting. I was drawn into the abysmal blackness of his pupils, and the more I looked, the more they dilated, until the void engulfed me.

I can only vaguely recall what happened after that. His gaze seemed to pierce right through me and I could still see him, even with my eyes squeezed shut. He scrutinised my soul for an eternity before releasing me, letting me collapse into a heap on the cold floor. Rolling into a foetal ball, I tried desperately to wake up, to open my eyes and see the white-painted ceiling of my apartment and once again realise that it had been nothing but a bad dream. But however hard I concentrated, the voices and conversations on and around the stage kept seeping into my mind, refusing to go away, mentioning my name, pulling me back into the whirling nightmare. Eventually, a deep, rasping voice, filled with authority and power, agreed to keep me alive. Why I don’t know, if this is what existence is about, I hardly see much point in going on.

Lying there on the stage, alone in my universe, I thought about the young man I’d lured into the shadows the day before. Looking back to what happened that evening, I can’t understand what force drove me to do something like that; it was like I was possessed by some evil spirit who forced me out from my apartment to prowl the streets, almost as if I was hunting for something in the night. At the time, I just felt an urge to be with someone, anyone. For myself, alone. I found him standing somewhat tipsy in a corner, looking like he didn’t know where to go next. Smiling shyly, I asked him if he wanted to share a fag with me. He laughed heartily and probably thought I was an exchange student or something, but yes, he’d love to share a cigarette with me. As we began to walk slowly, he explained to me that Americans generally mean “a male homosexual” when they say “fag”, and that my question therefore had been rather funny. As if I didn’t know. I laughed with him anyway. I’ve always been good at mimicking dialects and I find British English to be rather quaint.

Soon, I couldn’t control myself and ignoring all social codes, in the shade of a vast maple, I pulled him towards me and kissed him hungrily. He must have thought me mad or high, but he didn’t try to resist me until the blood began to flow. I honestly do not know what happened, but suddenly there was blood all over, on his neck, on the lapels of my blouse and on my hands. In my mouth, the taste making me dizzy. I felt exalted, I felt life return to my thirsting body and with it came a sensation of absolute bliss, like if we had already had sex and this was the perfect climax. It was ended abruptly, however, when someone cannoned into me from behind, knocking the wind out of me and sending me sprawling, facedown on the wet grass. Soon, the bastard followed me down and made sure I couldn’t move. I heard my young lover’s shrieks subside, gradually giving way to muffled whimpering.

When I finally was pulled to my feet, I could turn my head enough to see what was going on behind me, although strong arms still encircled my chest from behind and effectively pinned my arms to my sides. A small man, dressed in what looked like a shabby lab coat was staring into the young man’s limp face. I don’t know what kind of mesmerising gaze that little man possessed, but after a couple of minutes during which I dared neither to act nor to speak, the young man stumbled away, muttering incomprehensibly about going home to sleep. The small, weasel-like man turned his very much unwanted attention to me and told his unseen companion a lot of things I didn’t understand. He said that my blood was thin and that he couldn’t determine my lineage and that there was something unusual with me that he couldn’t pinpoint. After a moment’s consideration, he told his burly companion to “convey her to our vehicle”, as if I was some sort of commodity! The grip was relaxed, but as soon as I turned around to look at my assailant, something sharp and hideous hit me squarely between my breasts, and all my strength dwindled away as he hoisted me onto his shoulder and carried me away.

Fully occupied with feeling miserable and worrying over whatever happened to that young man, it took me a while to become aware of the fact that it was Sam who was dragging me across the floor, away from the stage. I noticed that people had been speaking about me, that some sort of deal had been sealed in which Sam and some other fellow called Robert had been designated as our guardians. I didn’t know who “we” were, but everything that lead away from that stage had to be good, so I stumbled to my feet and, supported by Sam, I made my way out of the great hall into an entrance lobby. During the ensuing conversation, I was able to sort out that this Robert fellow wasn’t particularly pleased by having this extra responsibility thrown upon his shoulders. I kept close to Sam, both for physical and emotional support, and he valiantly defended me in front of these objectionable types.

Later, the man in the lab coat, whose name was Dr. Moss, called us inside to talk with Calebros, the Prince of New York. A whispering conversation with Sam made me understand what this was all about. The Prince turned out to be the horrid being who had scrutinised me on the stage, and I averted my eyes from him the whole time, trying to forget the face I associated with that deep, rasping voice. He gave us a mission to free a sheriff, a man whose name I had never heard. When we were on our own again, the endless rant about our being worthless vermin continued, but fortunately, he soon left us to go fetch his car. Perhaps I should say something about the others, except for Sam and Robert, who have had their share of this story already. First, there is Dylan, an eloquent Irishman who seems to be the most sensible in the group, always having something relevant to say and treating me like a person and not something the cat dragged in. Second, there is Rafi, who looks like he’s from the Middle-East, but claiming to have lost his memory, he doesn’t know much about his past. Perhaps he is nice, but I feel somewhat uneasy about him.

I bought a packet of cigarettes to calm my nerves, but surprisingly, my lighter sparked more than just a flame. Rafi, the fifth member of our little group, panicked and threw himself on the ground, seemingly wanting to get away from me. Sam quickly stepped between us and as soon as the flame died and my cigarette was merely smouldering, Rafi regained control of himself. Again, they were upon me like vultures, with Robert in the lead, scolding me for the obvious crime of lighting a cigarette. Actually, it felt rather good to know that these people had weaknesses, that they were afraid of something I wasn’t. When the situation had cooled down somewhat, Dylan gently pointed at me and mildly told me to look down. I wish I hadn’t.

I inhaled the smoke deeply, but I hadn’t noticed that some of it didn’t take the normal route to freedom via my nostrils, but rather sought its way out through the front of my coat. Not believing what I was seeing, I undid the buttons and put my hand inside to let it run over my blouse, feeling the outline of my bra and… something else. The cloth covering my left breast was torn and underneath the fabric, an inch from my sternum, was a gaping hole, as if the nightmare had been true and someone had really driven a stake through my heart. Seeing my distress, Dylan guided me through a procedure I can neither explain nor remember clearly, but after focusing on something else and somehow telling my body to heal, the wound was gone. Still, I know it was not a hallucination, because the clothing is still in shreds.

We soon left for the harbour in order to investigate something concerning Rafi. Apparently, he had arrived in the city on a ship on which he was the sole survivor, the rest of the crew having been mysteriously slaughtered. There was also something about a coffin, which seemed to be the important bit. However, someone managed to drive of with it without us realising it until it was too late. Apart from the first half of the registration number, we didn’t have much to go on.

After a while, when I felt stronger, I wanted to return to my apartment, which turned out to be a fairly bad move. For some outlandish, freaking reason, they, and I mean all of them, but particularly Robert, had gotten into their heads that my life was to be wiped clean. He even had the nerve to stand in my living room and propose to set fire to the entire apartment! I forgot all my fears and just tried to get everyone to leave as soon as possible. What frightened me most was that all of them seemed to be against me, albeit that Dylan had a more rational approach and actually tried to make me understand why I had to join them and not stay here. Even Sam was against me. Thinking of the poor man I had assaulted the night before, I decided to join them, not wanting to let that happen again.

We finally arrived in Riverdale, where this sheriff guy was supposed to be, the only problem being that we had no idea where to begin. While standing there arguing what to do next, I dropped my cigarette, and not thinking more about it, I lit the last one I had left. However, I dropped this as well, and bending down to pick it up, through a cellar window, I caught a glimpse of the most horrible scene imaginable. Before I recoiled, I realised that a mutilated body was hanging from the ceiling with two men standing nearby as if interrogating or examining the corpse. What had I been drawn into, standing outside this building late at night, preparing to charge in to rescue a man I’d never heard of? If there was a god, I’d pray to him for this to be a nightmare and for the morning sun to bring deliverance rather than death.

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