The constant hiss was starting to lull Audrey back to sleep when it was broken suddenly by a voice that crackled and jumped. The frequency was poor and the signal kept breaking up as she and Jarvis sat listening.
For a few seconds, the voice seemed to relay coordinates and then went silent. The hiss returned and Audrey felt herself lean in closer to their equipment, willing the sounds to become clearer. Eventually another voice responded with an order to send vehicles over to the coordinates.
"Worth a look?" Jarvis wondered aloud as the line returned to static once more.
Audrey shrugged. There didn't seem anything definitive. Not anything worth risking the lives of her people over anyhow.
It had been like this for hours now. Intermittent reports of coordinates followed by radio silence and then a swift relay of orders. She wondered whether the vampires had figured out that they might be being listened to, or whether this was just a case of them not worrying too much about the job and failing to relay additional information. Either way, it wasn't helping her or any of the others who'd been taking shifts around the radio equipment to learn anything new about possible human sightings.
Sighing in frustration, Audrey rose from the wooden bench she had been sat upon and stretched her arms above her head. She felt stiff from the lack of movement and her mind wasn't focused on the task properly.
"We need to get back out on the hunt," she responded without much conviction.
Jarvis didn't say anything, waiting for Audrey to continue as he was sure she would.
"This just isn't enough to go on," she said eventually, seating herself beside him once more.
An air of defeat and frustration hung about them as they sat beside the crackling radio. It was all so different from the atmosphere the previous evening.
Senator Turner's visit, and his words about Elvis, about a cure and about hope had stirred up excitement even within herself. She, who always remained so level headed, had felt the growing of anticipation and true belief that things were about to change for the better. And that Elvis was at the heart of it. He had arrived in the midst of their group miraculously and they had been tasked with protecting him.
But right now, whilst he was still recovering and without someone who could properly examine him, there were other more pressing issues for the resistance, like bolstering their numbers.
"They've been too damn quiet for a while now," Jarvis said, his deep voice bringing Audrey back from her own thoughts and into the room.
"It doesn't have to mean anything," Audrey replied trying to be reassuring.
Jarvis cut her a wry grin and she shrugged. There was no need to pretend everything was fine with Jarvis, he'd been fighting just as long and just as hard.
"Something'll come up. We've just got to keep our ears to the ground."
"No problems there," Jarvis replied and added with a smile, "not like we got much else to do."
Across the room, stuck in the darkness of blindness and under the thin cotton sheets of what had gradually come to feel like a prison, Elvis was feeling equally as frustrated.
There was continual noise around him and at first it had been distracting enough to focus upon the sounds and try to figure out what exactly was going on. Gradually he'd been able to pick up bits of information and figure out individual people, their roles and a little of their personalities. But everyone was busy and Elvis was left to his own devices. Unable to move, he found himself beginning to dwell further upon his situation.
He was essentially a prisoner. He knew the importance of the potential cure he carried within his body meant that Audrey and the rest of the resistance wouldn't risk him leaving the shelter of the house. And he certainly wasn't any use to them in his current state.
The disorientation of the blindness had worn off, however the irritation at not being able to move was growing. Elvis felt well in himself. He was certain his body was recovering well from the crash and he was desperate to get out of the bed he was currently stuck in. But it didn't seem things were going to change any time soon.
He'd been alone for hours now. At one point the tedium was broken by a young man who announced himself to be called Travis bringing him food. Elvis had heard Travis often over the past day chatting with various other voices around him, including Audrey, and he had asked where she was. The response had been immediate, Audrey was busy and would be most of the day. Travis had dumped a tray of food on Elvis's lap and then disappeared. He returned twenty minutes later to tidy up but didn't say anything else
Other than this slightly strained exchange, Elvis had been left to his own thoughts. And they weren't doing anything to improve his mood.
It was clear that Senator Turner wasn't the only 'vampire' some of the members of the group had a problem with. Though most of the conversations he caught snatches of either revolved around day to day issues with the running of the resistance or speculation as to how soon a cure would be found - which did nothing to comfort his sense of unease - Elvis was increasingly aware of a smaller, dissenting group amongst the resistance. And it seemed he was the key problem.
"You awake under all that wrapping?"
Elvis jumped and swore under his breath. He'd been so caught up in his thoughts that he hadn't heard the footsteps approaching.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," he heard Audrey say.
"I'm fine," Elvis replied quickly.
Audrey halted close to the side of the bed but didn't take the seat. His words had been harsh, full of frustration and anger and he wasn't facing her as he usually would, despite his lack of sight.
"Sorry . . . I didn't mean -"
"It's alright," Audrey said, cutting off his mumbled apology and taking the seat finally.
He looked her way now and she could read frustration in every visible line of his face.
"The more you rest up now, the quicker you'll recover," she said, hoping to ease his frustration.
"If I could see, I'd be running laps of this place already," he muttered.
Audrey smiled. He still sounded irritable but was making something of an effort to be friendly at least. It made a change from working on their vehicles alongside Colin and all of his complaints and Jarvis' silence over the past couple of hours on radio watch.
"Is this a social visit or am I due some more discomfort?" Elvis asked.
"A bit of both. Your bandages need changing again."
Audrey was certain he was rolling his eyes beneath the bandages and saw his lips form a grimace.
Elvis gave a heavy sigh of irritation but managed a smile all the same as he felt Audrey's hands gradually begin to removed the wrapping from his face.
"Busy day huh?" he said.
His skin prickled strangely as it was gradually exposed to the air. It was an odd sensation, but not painful as it had been the previous day and he felt a sense of relief having the stifling bandages off his face. They'd been adding to his growing sense of claustrophobia.
"No busier than usual," Audrey replied.
As she gradually peeled the bandages away she was surprised to see how much better the skin beneath was looking. His recovery seemed to be moving at twice the speed expected. It was a little disconcerting and she wondered if there might be other things about Elvis that would remain different despite his miracle cure.
"Just avoiding having to play nurse to the helpless, bedridden ex vampire?"
"Something like that," Audrey murmured.
She wasn't paying attention to his words, instead marvelling at his recovery. The bandages were coming away easily under her hands and unlike last time, there were no grimaces from Elvis as she worked.
Elvis could tell she wasn't listening to him. Her words sounded distracted and distant, as if his questions were just background noise.
The bandages had been removed now and he felt lukewarm water applied to his face by her soothing hands. As he felt the water trickling down his cheeks, Elvis found his mind wandering back to yesterday's questions and her evasive answers.
"I think you're a red head."
Audrey's hands stilled a moment and once again he wondered if he was pushing too far. But then they resumed their careful movements against his skin.
Audrey laughed quietly but did not answer. It seemed Elvis was not to be dissuaded by her silence however.
Further silence and the cloth was removed. He could hear water being squeezed out into the bowl somewhere to his right.
Audrey reapplied the cloth to his forehead, brushing his hair out of the way so she could clean the burns there.
"Ok, you're secretly totally grey, but you dye it blonde? I won't tell anyone, hell who's going to believe the blind man?"
"You'll just have to wait."
Elvis reached up as her hands moved to his left cheek and stilled them there.
"Just, give me a clue?"
Audrey looked down at him as his hand held hers. He was still smiling but she could see the tension in his face. She knew it must be disorientating for him to have such an important sense ripped away so suddenly, leaving him totally in the dark. And besides, she had to admit she was enjoying his attention, even if it was simply because he was bored and frustrated.
"Alright. I'm most definitely not grey haired. That's all you're getting."
Elvis's smile cracked into a wide grin and Audrey continued to bathe his burns once more.
"Ok, it's not much to go on, but it's a start."
Elvis looked pensive for a few seconds, his lips pouting in thought as he considered his next question. Audrey found herself stifling laughter as she watched him puzzling out the information he had.
"So, not grey haired. Around about, oh, thirty I'd guess. From your footsteps and the fact that you got me across that river I'd say you're athletic. And pretty, definitely pretty."
Audrey did laugh at that.
"If you don't stop guessing soon you're going to be disappointed when you do finally get your sight back."
"Somehow I doubt that."
Audrey didn't argue with him. It was good see Elvis smiling and it certainly made her job easier if he was in a good mood. It didn't seem fair to leave him alone in his bed for so long each day, but the resistance was busy, either searching for fellow humans, making sure they all had enough supplies or keeping watch on the land surrounding the house. There simply wasn't enough time for someone to sit with Elvis and keep him occupied, despite his importance to the group.
"I appreciate that I'm the invalid patient at your mercy here," Elvis began as Audrey started replacing his bandages. "But it would be good to stretch my legs. Spending days on end in bed alone isn't my idea of a good time."
"You were thrown through the windscreen of a car. Don't you think you'd be better off resting up a while longer?" Audrey asked.
"I was a vampire when that happened, now I'm human. Everything's relative, Audrey. I'm going crazy stuck here."
Audrey was sceptical that his recovery, as miraculous as it was, really was good enough for him to go wandering around the house. And then there was the obvious problem . . .
"How are you going to get around? Elvis, you're blind and in a place you've never seen before."
"Well, I was hoping my personal guardian angel would be up for playing guide to the blind as well as doctor and rescuer."
The hopeful tinge to his tone made her pause and seriously consider the suggestion. There wasn't really any reason to refuse. Although no doubt the sight of Elvis up and moving around the house would set Colin off on a new rant later on. Audrey grimaced at the thought.
"It wouldn't have to be for long. Just so I could stretch my legs out for a while. Maybe get some fresh air."
He was almost pleading now, desperate to get out of the bed he'd been stuck in. Audrey -despite her years of leadership and hard, even harsh, decisions - caved.
The smile grew to a grin on Elvis's face as Audrey rose to her feet and moved to the other side of the room where his clothes lay neatly folded on an empty barrel that had formerly contained the wine produced from her parent's vineyard that surrounded the property. The vines were mostly dead and withered now however.
She returned to Elvis' bedside and placed the clothes on his lap. Audrey watched as Elvis' hands traced over the clothes, feeling everything out and trying to figure out what way around everything was. She hesitated awkwardly before asking her next question.
"Do you need some help?"
He had hold of his white t-shirt and was running his fingers along the neck line trying to find the front of the shirt.
"Looks that way," Elvis replied with no small measure of frustration. He hoped he wouldn't have to get used to being blind.
Audrey flipped the t-shirt so it was the right way around and then handed it to him so he could at least dress himself. She had a brief moment where she realised that to some extent this was what her life would have been like if she'd had the opportunity to have children. This was what it would have felt like to be continually looking out for someone who was totally dependent upon her for everything. But then, the resistance as a group was almost like that anyway, always looking to her for the final answer, for leadership and strength.
Once Elvis had pulled the t-shirt on, Audrey handed him a worn and faded pair of jeans and turned away to allow him a little more privacy.
When he'd eventually pulled on a pair of socks and boots too with some difficulty, Elvis slowly began to stand. Noticing how unsteady he was on his feet after almost three days in bed and the crash, Audrey reached out an arm around his waist and helped him to steady himself on the spot.
Elvis stood still for a few moments, testing the strength in his legs and finding his balance. He kept one hand on Audrey's shoulder until he was certain his body would hold up to the walk. His legs ached and he felt stiff and unwieldy, but he hoped a little movement would sort him out.
He placed his arm around her shoulders carefully and let her take some of the weight off his legs.
"Ok, I think I'm ready."
"Alright, just take it steady and tell me if you're getting tired," Audrey replied, still a little sceptical about the whole idea. He was letting a lot of his weight rest on her and he looked uncomfortable already.
A part of Elvis felt like insisting that he could walk unaided, but he found the desire to maintain human contact far outweighing his pride. Audrey's arm around his waist was reassuring in many ways.
They moved slowly out of the makeshift medical room and through the archway into the main room of the house. Elvis' footsteps were short and a little unsteady but there was no hesitation to his movements. At first Audrey kept her eyes on him to make sure he wasn't struggling, but as he found his feet she took in the rest of the room.
Most of the resistance members were too occupied with their work to pay much attention to the movement of others in the room, but a few were looking curiously their way. Elvis was the talk of the group but few had actually seen him since he had been carried in unconscious a few days previously. Now, eyes were focused upon him as he continued to take shuffling steps, oblivious to the attention he was receiving.
"We're in the main room of the house," Audrey said as they moved past the windows of a store room. "The radio equipment is in here and we have our meals and meetings here. There's a staircase we need to go up to get outside."
"I think I can manage it," Elvis replied, a wry edge to his tone.
Audrey didn't voice her doubts but kept them moving through the room, past the large dining room table around which a number of the resistance members were seated going over supply reports. A few looked up as they passed, including Colin. If the scowl on his face was anything to go by, Audrey was in for a long, dull meeting later that evening.
Elvis had being doing well so far, but navigating the spiral staircase was a trek in itself. Somehow the two of them managed to shuffle slowly up it together, alternating between Audrey taking the lead and backing Elvis up as he moved gradually upwards. Eventually though they emerged into the main entrance way to the house.
The front door was propped open with a large log currently as a couple of resistance members moved back and forth from the house with firewood. The two young men glanced up in surprise as Elvis and Audrey approached. They stood aside but didn't say a word
"Steady, there're a couple of steps down here." Audrey said quietly as they approached the doorway.
Audrey felt Elvis' grip on her shoulder increase slightly as he struggled to find his footing. After the difficulty in getting up the stairs, she guessed he might have overestimated his own recovery, but doubted he'd say anything. She kept her grip around his middle firm and let him get his balance properly before leading him through the open double doors and stepping out into the late afternoon sunlight with him.
Elvis laughed quietly as he felt the sunlight warming him for the first time in years. He turned his face upwards to the sky, wishing desperately that he didn't have the stifling bandages covering his skin, but revelling in the sensation all the same.
Beside him, Audrey smiled and watched silently as Elvis soaked in the sunlight, a broad grin on his face. Eventually though she felt his discomfort at standing for so long as he shifted his body weight.
"I'd like to sit somewhere in the sun for a while," he murmured.
Audrey didn't say anything, moving forward slowly instead and leading Elvis across the ground towards a grassy bank that ran beside the dirt track heading away from the house.
His relief at being able to relax was clear as Audrey helped Elvis to lower himself to the grass. She sat beside him as he stretched his legs out in front of him, leaning back on his hands and keeping his face turned up to the sun.
"Do you want to be alone for awhile?" she asked eventually, aware that there was probably a lot going through his head currently.
Elvis shook his head vehemently though.
"No," he said with certainty. "I've spent plenty of time on my own lately."
Audrey didn't reply, sensing that Elvis would continue the conversation when he was ready. Instead she enjoyed the peace of the afternoon sunlight, a welcome haven from the stresses of the day already and those to come later on.
"Funny thing about being a vampire, having all that time and all that power, just knowing you've got eternity stretching out ahead of you, it sucks every bit of desire out of you. And I mean desire for anything, not just some pretty girl you meet. Desire for human contact, for food, for new experiences, for knowledge or anything else. All you're left with is the need for blood."
His sightless eyes were still turned up to the sky and Audrey wasn't entirely sure whether he was really trying to explain all of this to her or to himself.
"And now?" she found herself asking.
He tilted his head her way a little, a thoughtful expression playing about what little of his features were visible.
"It all comes flooding back, the need for everything else."
The more he fought to articulate everything that was running through his mind, everything that he'd been feeling, or rather not feeling, for the last few years, the more it all slipped away. It was like there had been a pause in his life. Like everything had been put on hold when his heart stopped.
"I was dead for years and now I'm alive again. That's the only way I can explain it."
Audrey watched him carefully and took in everything he said. There was a passion in Elvis's voice and a strength of will that she hadn't heard from anyone for years. The resistance was full of people who were tired, from years of running and hiding. She thought that in some ways, she could relate to Elvis' experiences as a vampire. In truth, she realised, her life had been similar for just as long. Except she had yet to experience a grand awakening.
"Thanks for helping me out here. I needed this," Elvis said suddenly, breaking the silence that had descended over them.
"I think I did to."
Audrey wasn't sure where the words had come from but knew immediatly that they were right as Elvis smiled in understanding.