The Donor House

A Halloween Surprise

There was a moment when all Alice could do was stare. As it was Halloween she’d made sure she was on the reception desk, which gave the normal receptionists an unexpected night off, just in case someone turned up she didn’t want in the House. Halloween brought out all the creepiest vampires. What she hadn’t expected was a group of children walking though the door. As a general rule most children in the local area avoided the Donor House. She couldn’t help smiling at them when she realised they were all dressed in costumes, and that meant they were obviously out trick-or-treating.
“What can I do for you?” she asked, looking at the eldest person in the group who couldn’t have been more than fifteen.
“I need to use your phone,” the teenage girl replied. “We weren’t expecting to come this far out, and I don’t think I can get this lot home again without help.”
“Do you know where you are?”
“In general.”
“Okay, we can deal with this. Who’s wearing white here?”
One small hand went up, and Alice found herself smiling again at the little boy, who looked about six, wearing a ghost costume. It wasn’t particularly helpful, but one was better than none. Thinking quickly, she looked around the reception. No one, apart from the receptionist, spent much time in the foyer, so Alice hoped that someone she trusted would walk through when she needed them. She wasn’t going to leave the little ones alone while she went to find some white things. After what felt like hours she saw Nick.
“Nick,” she called, grateful that he wasn’t out conducting interviews, “can you do me a huge favour?”
Nick turned and looked, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion when he saw the children. “Of course. What do you need me to do?”
“I need you to find me…” She quickly counted the children. “…seven white items of clothing. These adorable little Halloween creatures have managed to tire themselves out with all the walking they’ve done, and I think they might have to wait here for a while.”
“Okay,” he replied slowly. “Is that a good idea?”
“I am not going to have them stand around in the cold waiting. Also, while you’re looking can you let the kitchen know that we’re going to need some hot chocolate.” Alice looked at the children. “Are any of you hungry?”
All of the younger ones looked at their older chaperon, who looked back at them before replying, “Yes, we are. It was a long walk.”
Alice turned back to Nick. “We’re also going to need plenty of snacks. Make them savoury because from the looks of things they have more than enough sugar right now.”
“Alice, they’re children.”
“I hadn’t noticed that, Nicholas. Thank you for pointing it out.” She shook her head. “White clothing now, please.”
Nick looked at her for a moment. “On your head be it.”
“Don’t be so melodramatic. It’ll be fine.”
As Nick left the foyer Alice turned to the teenager again. “What’s your name, sweetie?”
“Leanne,” the girl replied, smiling shyly. “Where are we?”
That was a question that Alice wasn’t certain she should answer, but she had no other option. “You’re in the Donor House, honey.” Leanne’s eyes told Alice she knew about the House, and what she knew wasn’t good. “We’re not going to hurt you. All of the vampires here have made the decision to only feed from people who have made an informed choice as to whether they want to be donors or not. In order to do that we give them all the information they feel they need, and they aren’t forced to stay here if they decide, before their first feed, they aren’t ready for this.”
“Why before the first feed?”
“It’s safer that way. When a vampire feeds from a human it leaves what I can only call a scent marker, and all other vampires can smell that, which, for reasons I have yet to understand, means they’re more tempting.” Alice shrugged. “As we don’t want to make anyone more tempting to the auction vampires we make certain a donor isn’t fed from until they are positive this is what they want.”
“Okay.” Leanne brushed her hand through her hair. “Is it wrong I want to learn more?”
“No, of course it’s not, but there are humans who automatically assume that all vampires are dangerous, we’re all hunters, we’re all creatures of darkness… and I don’t blame them for thinking that way. There are vampires like that, but it’s not all of us. We’re doing our best here to change things for vampires and humans, so we can learn to live together, rather than one of us feeling like prey.”
“My parents told me to stay away from the Donor House.” Leanne bit her lip. “They have certain beliefs about vampires, the ones you’ve just talked about, and I didn’t stop to think they might be prejudiced. I just assumed they were being sensible after all the stories I’ve heard about vampires hunting humans, and the auctions, and the addicts.”
Alice tried to find a way to explain what she was thinking, without affecting the way Leanne saw her parents. “They were, in one way, because I would be extremely wary myself of a place like this if I’d never visited it for myself. I’d just appreciate it if people would do their research before they judged us, because we aren’t dangerous. We only let vampires come back if we know for certain they aren’t going to hurt one of our donors.”
“You might not believe this, but we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t accept what Alice was saying as the truth.” Dominic walked out holding the items of clothing she’d asked for. “Nick sent me out with these, and said the hot chocolates are on their way, as are the snacks, but Jean-Luc can’t decide what to bring.”
“Leanne, this is Dominic. He’s one of our donors, who’s been here since the beginning, and Jean-Luc is a vampire, who happens to be related to Nick though Nick’s creator.” Alice took the clothes off of Dominic, and gave them to Leanne. “Pass these out. Make sure everyone has one, because that’s the way you’ll show you aren’t to be fed from.” Alice didn’t think for a moment any of the vampires at the House would try to bite a child, but rules were rules, and she knew what would happen if someone who wasn’t a regular walked in. “I promise you you’re safe here.”
Alice watched as Leanne gave the clothing to each of the trick or treaters, and helped them to put them on. Then she turned back to where Alice and Dominic were stood. Slowly, she looked between the two of them, nibbling on her bottom lip. “Vampires can be related to each other?”
“It’s one of the ways vampires try to create connections. When they change a human into a vampire they’re building what they like to call a family, although the vampires in that family don’t always see things in the same way. So, for example, Nick’s creator sees himself as the vampiric father of the family he’s created, which makes Nick his son, and due to how I became a vampire, I’d be his granddaughter.” Alice did her best to hide how she felt about that. “As Jean-Luc was turned by one of Nick’s vampire brothers that makes him one of Nick’s nephews.”
Dominic nodded. “The vampires who end up here often don’t see themselves that way. It has to do with how well they ‘took’ to be a vampire. Some vampires embrace what they’ve become. Those are the vampires you do need to be wary of. Keep as far away from them as you possibly can, because they are willing to do anything in order to get what they want, and they don’t see humans as people. Then you have the vampires who’ve ended up at the House. Instead of accepting they’re a vampire, and doing what their creator believes they should, they’ve tried to find another path. Before the House that wasn’t anywhere near as easy as it is now.”
Having Dominic there to help her explained things was easily the best thing that could have happened. Alice smiled at him, and he smiled back. “That’s why Nick wanted to set something like this up in the first place.” The smile faded. “In his time he’s seen a number of vampires giving up, because they felt like they didn’t have any other options, and when that happens it’s hard.” She didn’t know how much she dared to tell Leanne. “I want to teach you more about the House, Leanne, because that seems to be what you want, but we have to be careful. Your parents probably aren’t going to be very happy if we make choices they wouldn’t.”
“I’m old enough to make my own decisions.”
“They probably wouldn’t agree.”
Leanne laughed. “No, they wouldn’t. We’ve had that argument before.” She shook her head. “I want to learn more about the House, Alice, because this is important. You’re a part of our world. Being scared does make sense, but I don’t think I should be scared of you.” Their eyes met. “Give me a chance to show you I’m not as young as my parents seem to think I am.”
“When I was your age I was out hunting vampires. I know that your age doesn’t necessarily have any connection to how mature you are. We just have to be very careful. Complaints could be very dangerous for the House.”
“You don’t have to worry about me saying anything stupid.” Leanne glanced at the phone. “Give me twenty minutes here. I’m not going to ask anything more. The others are too young to understand, but I am.”
Dominic and Alice shared a look. “I can keep an eye on the little ones. It probably won’t be long until Jean-Luc is here, so I won’t be alone, and Leanne is right. Learning more about the House, the vampires who live here, why it’s been set-up… that’s all important. It’s probably more important now than it ever was before.”
“Okay.” Alice nodded. “You have something white on.”
“I do.” Leanne had pulled a white skirt on over the top of what she was wearing. “This is what I want to do.”
“Well, in that case, I’ll give you the guided tour.” Alice held her hand out to Leanne, and Leanne took it. That was the only reason Alice knew Leanne was shaking. It was to expected. “Twenty minutes, and then you have to call your parents to come get you.”
“Promise.” Leanne smiled. “Do you want me to be honest with you?”
“Honesty is the important.”
“When I walked in I knew where I was. I meant it when I said we’d come further than I thought we had, and there were other places I could have gone, but I wanted this chance. Mum and Dad would never have let me do this. They don’t understand why I’d want to learn more. They think it’s better for me to keep my distance from all vampires. I think… all vampires are different. They have to be, because all humans are different, and I feel like we’re making a mistake by simply seeing you all the same way.”
“I understand.” Alice thought back to a time when she’d made decisions her parents had never forgiven her for making. “My parents were hunters. They taught me that vampires were dangerous. I believed them, until I met Nick. You see there was a vampire, an auction vampire, who tried to grab me, and Nick happened to be there at the right time. He could simply have walked away. Instead he chose to help me. It was then I started to see things differently.”
“Nick is the one who changed you.”
“Nick saved my life. I was attacked by his creator. I would have been dead if it wasn’t for Nick, and I’ve always known that, but for a very long time I was angry with him for doing it. By the time he reached me I’d come to terms with the fact I was going to die. Waking up in a bed… it sounds so stupid now. When I look back at the choices I made I can’t quite believe it’s me. I punished him for making the decision to save my life. That’s something I should never have done. He deserved better.”
“Why were you really angry with him?”
“There are so many reasons. One of the things becoming a vampire can do, depending on who you are, is magnify your emotions. At the time I was coming to terms with the fact I was in love with a vampire. I wanted to ask Nick to change me, and I was certain he’d say no, and then he did when I was close to dying, and… it’s hard to put it words. I was feeling so much. Nick understood, because he went through the same thing himself. He’s never blamed me for the emotions I was having so much trouble dealing with. Some vampires would have done. Others would have tossed me out, to learn by myself, to punish me for my petulance. I’ve seen vampires who have been through so much, and I know I was lucky.”
“At the same time you weren’t lucky. You were made into a vampire because there was no other option.” Leanne shrugged. “I think it’s very different to be able to make that choice.”
“It is.” Alice looked at Leanne. “The first person I want to introduce you to is Blake. He’s one of the few vampires who’s actually been able to make that choice, although he did it because he felt like he didn’t have any other option. You see you’re right about all vampires being very different. Blake was sold in one of the auctions. I met him a long time after that, when he was dealing with being an addict, and going through that isn’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy. Helping those people is something I want to be able to do here, because he made a decision he wouldn’t have made if there was a place like this. Instead he had to become a vampire in order to let go of the pain of being an addict.”
“Which isn’t something I regret.” Blake stepped over to the two of them. “Nick told me about our visitors.”
“Blake, this is Leanne. She wanted to learn more about the House, and the vampires here.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Leanne.” He smiled at her. “Learning more is always important. I wish I’d known more about vampires when I was bought, but back then the vampires weren’t as open as they are now.”