The Pull of Polaris
Near or far-
Wherever you roam,
Look to me
To guide your way home.
Since the dawn of my existence, I have wanted, needed to tell someone. These memories, these emotions that course through me everyday, they torture me; so mush so that I would be better off standing in a basin of water and grabbing a jagged electrical chord. So, I have chosen you. I want to tell you my story. I want my trials to be yours. And I assume, since you picked up this book, that you want to hear it. So listen closely, for I will only tell this once.
My tale essentially has very little to do with me. The story of my life is the story of the people in it. I have experienced every type of person in my time, from cruel and unforgiving, to the utmost of unconditional lovers. And to understand my story, you must understand theirs. So I will start where I met the first of these acquaintances. Please excuse me if I wander, for the tangents I revisit will hold some merit later on. But for now, I leave you in the American South, a land ravaged by civil war. I leave you with the soldiers who fought there, and the unseen nocturnal threats they somehow managed to evade. I leave you with the hopes that you will understand, and not hate me for what I am. My name is Jasper Hale, formerly Jasper Whitlock… and this is my story.Chapter 1 New Life
If my memory serves me correctly, October 4th, 1862 was not a good day to be in Galveston, Texas. The ocean winds showed no mercy as they tore through the confederate south. The confederates… my confederates were forced to retreat an hour into our initial dawn attack on the Union's blockade of Galveston Harbor. However helpless we felt at that time, we soon received support from the sea in the form of gunboats Bayou City and Neptune. We watched, more or less, as they successfully captured the Union's S.S. Harriet Lane. We assumed victory.
That's when I received the order. I wasn't outranked by many, but when I received an order from a superior, it was expected to be followed immediately. So, the small contingent of men that accompanied me fell back to the city. Our order was to evacuate the women and children to Houston. It wasn't difficult. The women were terrified; toting their equally petrified children along with them, hand in shaking hand. They searched for any refuge, and we were happy to provide it. The scene reminded me of a misplaced herd of cattle being rounded into a paddock, the way they boarded our ships. I would have laughed, if it weren't heartbreaking.
It didn't take long to get underway. The journey to Houston was relatively bearable, considering the rocking of the ships kept us from dozing off. We unloaded the women, who thanked us graciously, and I immediately returned to the ship and sailed with an even smaller group of men back to Galveston. Rest was not an option. There was work needed accomplishing, and sleep was a luxury we could not afford, at least any time soon anyway.
We easily found the Lieutenant Colonel, the nest superior to me, surrounded by an array of lower and higher officers. I was easily the youngest by years in our small group, even more so than the privates below me. In 1861, at the beginning of this war, I had lied about my age, claiming to be twenty when in actuality I was seventeen. My long limbs and able body didn't hinder my fib, however, and I was enlisted. I wasn't sure how or when exactly it happened, but I was promoted through the ranks to Major. My father described it as inherited charisma, but I've always pondered the validity of such a statement. I always thought I had something… more. But I'll tackle that topic later.
The Lieutenant Colonel didn't know what to do with us. The Confederate Army was still young at this point, and struggling to organize. So, he told my men to skirt the city streets, and make sure we hadn't missed anyone.
That's when I got the order that would damn and save me all at once. He provided me with a mount and I was told to ride the perimeter, and check for stragglers. Like the true southern man I was, I obeyed without a second thought or word. I often question my sanity on agreeing to skirt the city by myself, but it wouldn't have mattered if I'd had ten men… possibly even twenty. But of course, I didn't know that yet.
There are two places I've ever felt the most comfortable, and the first was my home in Houston, with my father, mother, and two sisters. The second was on the back of a horse. If you've never felt the empowerment that comes from riding such a dedicated, powerful creature, it is hard to describe. They have no reason to obey and serve us, and yet they do, unyieldingly. Therefore, I felt commanding on the back such a beast, yet again, my empowerment counted for nigh, and wouldn't last long.
I rode at a brisk trot; it was a speedy gait, yet one that wouldn't tire either of us too quickly. I rode in silence and darkness for probably half an hour, nothing but my small handheld lamp to light the dirt trail I mindlessly followed. The only sound to break the silence was the somewhat labored breathing of my steed and his rhythmic hoof beats, nothing else. No birds, no crickets. I should have found this odd, but when running on nominal sleep, one's senses dull quite a bit.
It was at that half hour mark, when I was only one mile outside of Galveston, that I stumbled upon them. They were a lowly bunch; three women clad in long, flowing white gowns. It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't lived in the 1860's how little of a threat women were, considering all men, especially southern men, were taught to show women the utmost respect. With that in mind, I immediately dismounted and approached them by foot.
"Pardon me, ladies, but I was wondering if perhaps you were in need of some help," I said, ever respectful, ever naïve.
As soon as they turned around, my stomach lurched and my brain shrieked in an unknown terror. Although all three were indescribably beautiful, something about them screamed "danger." But of course, with my upbringing, I ignored that sense. I approached them further, and got a good look at their faces.
They were even more beautiful than I initially thought. They were obviously young; couldn't be over twenty. And each one of them had deathly pale skin; skin that put the moon to shame. Their bodies were perfectly angular, no discrepancies to be found. Two were taller, both differing shades of blonde, and then there was the shorter woman… girl. She was shorter by inches, at least, and her brunette hair fell in ocean-like ripples down her back. If the other two were gorgeous, this one was Helen of Troy. I was speechless, breathless, thoughtless, even. I froze, unable to move.
"He's speechless," the tall blonde chimed, and the sound made my heart flutter. It was as unbreakable as stone, and yet as soft as velvet.
She leaned toward me, and something in my mind screamed for me to step away, run if I could manage. She inhaled deeply, and all I could do was stare back at her. My limbs wouldn't move, and my lips couldn't form words. My thoughts were chaos.
"Mmm," she sighed, batting her eyelashes at me and grinning a kind of sadistic grin. "Lovely."
It was then that the smaller girl stepped forward, resting a hand gently but firmly on the forearm of the girl before me. She spoke so quickly that I couldn't make out the words. I remember watching her lips move, still captivated. It was like a love struck puppy marveling over a grown, attractive bitch. I wouldn't have been surprised if I'd started panting.
I was always a good judge of character; of how people interacted with each other. And the way the brunette touched the other girl screamed dominance.
"Concentrate, Nettie," the brunette said, and I'm surprised I didn't have a heart attack at the sound. It was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard… up until that point anyway.
The way she said it confirmed my suspicions. It wasn't condescending, but still forceful enough to claim superiority. The brunette was definitely in charge.
"He looks right – young, strong, an officer," the brunette spoke again, but paused as she looked me up and down. I tried to speak, but no words fell from my stunned mouth. "And there's something more… do you sense it? He's… compelling."
I was lost. I wasn't sure what the hell she meant. Were they in trouble? Was someone trying to harm them? Did they need protection? My instincts were giving me clues, but as always, I was ignoring them.
"Oh yes," the blonde, Nettie, quickly agreed. She leaned forward again, a hunger in her eyes that I didn't recognize.
"Patience," the brunette cautioned, her voice smooth. "I want to keep this one."
Nettie frowned, her bottom lip jutting out in a show of distaste.
"You'd better do it, Maria," the other blonde finally spoke, and I wasn't surprised that her voice was just as captivating. "I kill them twice as often as I keep them."
Maria. That was her name. It fit her perfectly. It was simple yet elegant, just like her.
"Yes, I'll do it," Maria agreed, her eyes wandering back to me. "I really do like this one. Take Nettie away, will you? I don't want to have to protect my back while I'm trying to focus."
I should have run. The Lieutenant Colonel would never know I'd even found anyone; no harm done. But I couldn't move. I felt like I'd been paralyzed in place. The hair stood up on the back of my neck, and my insides screamed. But the more I stared at the beautiful creature before me, the more I ignored those instincts.
I barely registered Nettie saying something, and the other two girls sprinting toward the city at an unnatural pace. Otherwise, I probably would have started backing away. Which, as I realize now, would have been the wiser choice.
I had eyes only for Maria, and she seemed the same. She was looking at me curiously, like a toddler at a new toy. The way she scrutinized me made me feel exposed. I felt like she was staring straight into my soul.
"What is your name, soldier?" Maria asked, playing with a large necklace around her neck.
I'm surprised I found the words. I'm surprised I even heard her. "Major Jasper Whitlock, ma'am," I stammered, my voice sounding foreign to me.
"I truly hope you survive, Jasper," she said in her porcelain voice.
I caught the meaning of her statement. I tell myself now that somewhere inside me, I knew what she was about to do. Or partly knew, at least. But the entire statement was overshadowed by the sound of my name falling from those perfect, damning lips. I would have shivered if my body hadn't stopped responding to my thoughts.
She leaned forward, on her toes, as if she were going to kiss me. At that point, I knew. My body tried to respond, but my terror overtook me. Apparently my horse had better survival instincts than me, for he yanked the reins from my grip and tore into the blackness of the night.
It was like watching from another vantage point. I felt strangely separated from the experience. But I remember it, painfully vividly. Forgive me if I become graphic in the details, but this is a moment I feel you must experience thoroughly. While every minute detail may seem sickening to you, imagine if you will, what it was like for me. You may think it unnecessary, but I firmly believe this moment was one that formed my personality for the duration of my future… existence. It will be unforgivably intense, for that is how I remember it, now and always.
Many things happened in the following second. Faster than I'd ever seen a person move, she reached around the back of my neck and held me in her vice-like grip. Her hand was cold; ice cold, death cold. It made me flinch away from her as best I could. I finally decided she was a threat far too late. I reached for my Colt Revolver in its holster and slammed the muzzle against her stomach. I didn't even have time to breathe before I fired.
She didn't even flinch; she merely shoved me backward so I landed on my back. I didn't, however, lose my concentration. I assumed I'd missed the first time and fired again. This time I saw clearly. The bullet glanced neatly off of her skin, as if I'd fired at the iron hull of a navy ship. The bullet whizzed through the air and embedded itself firmly in the dirt a few feet from us. Maria grinned, and began to stalk toward me, taking her time.
I tried to push myself to my feet, but before I knew she'd moved, she was on top of me. She gripped my gun hand tightly, and ripped the gun from my hand. I felt the tiny bones in my palm shatter, but I paid it no mind; I had more pressing matters to attend to. She slammed my hands to the ground, pinning me, and no matter how forcefully I struggled, I didn't move a centimeter. She leaned toward my face, this time angling to one side. She licked her lips, her perfect ruby lips, and grinned maliciously.
I swore all of Texas could have heard my scream when she bit the artery in my neck. I didn't have to see to know I was bleeding… profusely. I could feel the warm liquid seeping from my veins and onto my skin. And the knowledge that she was drinking it made me scream again. She moaned, a low rumble deep in her chest, and pulled her head back, blood… my blood dripping from her lips. Her eyes practically glowed red, perfectly imitating the scarlet of my blood.
She leaned back, releasing my arms and staring into my face. I saw something there I didn't recognize… longing perhaps? But I didn't get to wonder long. The pain began to overwhelm me. It was as if someone had poured boiling acid into my veins; burning its way through every muscle and tissue. I gasped as the burning reached my lungs. I can't even begin to put into words the amount of pain I was in. My limbs felt as if they were being slowly severed by a dull blade.
I writhed on the ground, grasping at my skin and trying to make it stop. I begged her to make it stop. All I heard was the angry pumping of my heartbeat in my ears… and her laughter.
"It will be over soon, Jasper," she said, twisting a loose tawny curl around her finger.
I begged again, this time screaming it. I was gasping… no, choking for breath. Tears of agony rolled down my cheeks as my hands gripped at the cold hard ground. That's when she did something I would come to explain to myself later, yet never forgive her for.
She gripped my wrists again, and held them to the ground. I wanted nothing more than to curl into the fetal position and die, and she was forcing me to endure. My arms screamed in protest, and I verbally conveyed their message.
"Just a little while longer," she hissed into my ear, and the mere sound caused me immense agony.
That's when it reached my heart. I thought I was being turned inside out, starting at my chest. I began to struggle against her harder, screaming and kicking at her. She didn't even budge. Time seemed to stand still as I was tortured. I don't know how long I lay there, restrained by the beautiful Maria, screaming for my life. I begged her to kill me, so many times. Behead me, dismember me, anything to end this torment she was inflicting on me.
She merely stared back at me, her crimson eyes boring into my flesh. I would have looked her in the eyes as I begged, if they weren't clouded with my agonized tears. I began to wonder if I'd sinned in my life, for surely this was hell.
Just when I thought the pain would never end; that this was my life of eternal damnation, it began to slow. It was my extremities first. My fingers tingled, but the pain that caused my fists to clench had eased. The relief crawled inward, slowly, from the tips of my fingers and toes. I grew quiet; my heavy panting becoming the only sound. My mouth hung open as I gasped for air, although I didn't realize yet that I didn't need it. The burning in my chest was the last to die, and I distinctly remember hearing my last heartbeat. I listened, tried to feel the next one, hear it, but it never came.
I stayed where I was for a moment, not moving; I was afraid movement might bring back the pain. Somewhere, deep inside me, I knew. I knew that Jasper the man had died, and that I had become… something else entirely. What, I didn't know yet.
"There, there," Maria cooed, stroking my face after releasing my arms again.
I shied away from her, but only for an instant. Something told me she was no longer a threat. She crawled off of me, but remained on the ground, crouched like an animal and staring at me. As I sat up, I realized the extent to which I had changed.
Whereas it was pitch-black moments before, the colors were suddenly as vibrant as day. I could spot any animal within miles, simply by the heat generated in their bloodstream. Like a newborn child, I felt curiously at my skin, recognizing it's new indestructible state. And very soon, I felt the thirst.
I looked up at her, still strangely evading of her. I was still panting, but I soon realized that it was only an involuntary reaction.
"What…" I began, but my voice sounded different… strange.
"Do you believe in monsters, Jasper Whitlock?" she asked me.
I had never been a superstitious person, but obviously, my opinions had been altered for me.
"To an extent," I replied, still feeling my skin and looking around aimlessly. "What do you mean, monsters?"
"I mean vampires," she said bluntly, standing and brushing off her white gown. It was then that I noticed a red stain on the right shoulder, above her breast.
I couldn't answer her. I didn't know how to answer her. She seemed to read this on my face, and she approached me again. This time, I felt absolutely no fear. The wind caught from behind her, and that's when the scent hit me.
It couldn't have done better if I'd been struck with an iron pry bar. I knew it was the smell of my own blood, wafting from her cloth dress, but I couldn't help myself. I inhaled deeply, and I could feel the fierce expression stretching my face. I wanted it so badly. It's hard to explain to a mere mortal what exactly it feels like, to want… need something so badly that it consumes one's entire being. The only way I can even think of describing it is to starve yourself for months, then let someone place a feast all around you, letting the scent devour you. Then you may know a fraction of what I felt at that moment.
"Come," Maria said, holding her delicate yet indestructible hand down to me. "Allow me to show you a world you've only ever dreamed of."
I took it willingly.