I was not cattle. I will not be treated like so.
The donor line was getting longer and longer as I looked from a distance. I was going to be here all day, and any thought of seeing Paul in the evening was out the window. I hated the new laws. I felt they invaded my space, my life. You could tell the ones who had given more than they should. They were pale, slow walking, quiet. Their play was to max out so they wouldn’t have to come every two weeks. Usually it never worked. The VCS would find you and bring you anyway. It wasn’t worth your health to give daily.
Then again, that was when we gave voluntarily. Everyone, not just the O Negs.
Seven of the population has O negative Blood. Those that have it are called, “Universals”. This means that our red Blood cells can be transfused to patients with all types of Blood. At first it was just a name that was used for cool rock bands and tattoos. Now, it was who we were - a demographic of people used to keep the balance between them and us.
I was like you: Going to school, relationship issues, ducking social media rants and raves and laughing at cat memes. We were all the same in that that light.
"Marissa what?," asked the nurse. "You know how this goes why make it so difficult?"
I sighed. "Marissa Reese."
"Thank you. Please show me your mark for verification."
I reached up and pulled back my collar to reveal the red barcode: ONEGvLjEkQ4rIZ. Non O-Negs had blue codes. "Thank you again. You are all set, just lay back and the machine will do the rest."
Staring at the ceiling was never fun, so I would make faces at the Vampire Control System (VCS) guards. They were never in a good mood, but were professional. Always in riot gear, the only way you could tell they were Vamps was through the tinted visor. The ice cold blue eyes would glow upon eye contact. When I wasn't doing that, I would hum just to pass the time, which seemed like forever. Forty-five minutes later, I was done. I craved fresh air. "The VCS appreciates your cooperation. When you give, everyone gives."
In other words, when you give, they don't run around in a frenzy tearing people's heads off like they did in the early 2000's. During those times from what I've been told, they made movies about that sort of thing. That's banned now, deemed offensive in nature because well, we know they're real.
In the Summer of 2015 a man wandering around Denver International Airport with a metal detector came across a open tunnel. He was attacked. He was found by a security officer mangled, blood drained from his body. Within 4 hours the airport was locked down by the military and everyone who was there were never seen or heard from again.
To this day, according to the Internet, the alleged secret military base still remains under the airport. However, something did get loose. In fact, it had been loose for days and infected 300 people in the Denver area.
But that's the Internet, a world of information that cannot be confirmed or denied. I'm not saying that it doesn't happen now because it does. When it does, the members of the VCS hierarchy deal with it. They call them "Strays": Vamps who follow "the old way". Those people are hunted and indoctrinated into the new system to avoid bloodshed.
As long as everyone does their part, the U.S. Government has no quarrels with the VCS. It's about tolerance, uniformity. You give to get. Drive downtown and you can see the old places of worship withering away, retaken by the land they were built on. Apparently the Vamps weren't too fond of church either, so they were acquired by the government and shut down immediately. We can't beat them, so we compromise to save our own lives. Otherwise, you can't live, eat, get a job, nothing.
Everywhere you walk you see the posters with phrases like, "The VCS doe not label no one. The VCS is not "Big Government". It's about unity. Don't Judge. Do The Research."
The Vampire Control System (VCS) was formed under the banner of the Black Cell Association, named after the black cells found in Vampires. This, in conjunction with the American Red Cross, kept everything in check. As they did their blood drives, the VCS piggybacked along. As long as every Vampire was registered, they could receive daily blood packets. However, every blood donor that could have their blood mixed with there blood were forced to give. It had to be O Negative blood. We could mix with anyone with no problems. They hunted us down via our Social Security Numbers and put us on a register. Some resisted and were killed. Others went into hiding. My parents turned me in. I didn't hate them for it, but at the same time I do hate what has happened to this country. Instead of killing them, we tolerate them. Meanwhile they kill us out of random acts of rage while never allowing us to cross the line once. It wasn't fair, and I was just tired of it. It was the same ordeal every two or three weeks. I began to make a game of it, from marking my chair to wearing signs that said, "Cattle".
But I knew I wasn't cattle, it was the only way to make the system live in guilt. No one would dare go against it. We didn't have a Plan B. Afterwards I sat around eating cookies trying to regain my strength. The punctures healed quickly, but it was still a tiresome process. Hours later I was back to my life. I had done my duty. Marissa Ramero, hero to millions. Someone tonight could sleep easy knowing I had done my part. Even if I felt it was nothing more than a feeding line, in my mind I don't see myself as cattle.
And I never will...
“IT’S BEEN 5 WEEKS SINCE THE LAST BLOOD FRENZY ATTACK IN THE COUNTRY AND LAWMAKERS ARE STARTING TO FEEL THE VCS HAS FINALLY TAKEN SHAPE. THOSE WHO NEED BLOOD ARE GETTING IT, GIVING LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT TIME TO CONTROL THOSE WHO STILL WANT TO LIVE OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM. WITH THE IMPLEMENTATION OF BLOOD AGENTS WORKING ALONGSIDE LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL LAW AUTHORITIES, MAINTAINING THIS BALANCE, FOR MANY LAWMAKERS, IS SLOWLY BECOMING A REALITY.”
“They’re Vampires. We’re feeding Vampires,” Paul said as he downed his Rum shot. “They are people who require blood to live.Oh yeah, we’re not supposed to say “Vampires”. Screw their political correctness. They make us serve them, change our laws for them, hell, now they want to get married to humans and procreate! Is that even possible? How odd is that? We’re just standing by! They…are…MONST-"
I placed my index finger over his lips. I looked around the bar and got a few stares, but nothing to worry about. People nodded at me in approval of my gesture to him. He was frustrated of course, watching me give blood each month. He scared me. If a fight broke out right now, no matter if the Vampires started it or us, the media would take their side. It’s only that way because they’re scared to stand for the truth. Tolerance became their banner and it sucked the freedom right out this country. Now we’re just dealing with it. We’re prisoners of the system we created.
“Let it go Paul. The media is swayed to their favor. They could destroy you for talk like that. No job, no life. They would railroad you into non-existence. Society would care less. I’m fine.”
Holding his hand he looked at and smiled. “Remember when people did the right thing?” he asked.
“Yeah, I do. Now we got to do what’s necessary for all of us. The line will get redrawn one day and when it does, I want you there with me."
Paul’s zeal for me was going to get him killed. I could feel he was ready to do something. It scared me at times while other moments it was cute. We all felt the same way.
As we stepped outside, the rain battered the ground. I donned my hoodie and Paul raised his coat over his head. "I've got to get to the store before this gets worse! I'll see you tomorrow for pizza."
Paul nodded and went the other way. I looked around and realized the alley had a few overhangs that could give some relief from the rain. The cornerstore was an easy five minutes through the alley so why not?
As I made my way down the alley, my spine tingled. I could feel the peering eyes of someone watching me. I looked up at the windows, but saw no one. The alley was filled with dumpsters and other junk. There could be danger lurking behind anything and everything. I kept my head down and my hood over my face. A young girl in the alley at night? No, this didn't look good at all. In that moment my body felt the burning sensation come across my back.
I fell hard to the concrete, mortified at what could be behind me. I didn't move. Soon it was on top of me ripping at my clothes. "I'm going to get raped," I thought. "My God, I'm going to get raped." As my survival instincts finally kicked in the feeling of teeth caught the top of my shoulder and tugged on my like a piece of meat. I jerked uncontrollably, going limp. In my mind, if I could be as heavy and as out of control as possible, the beast would overwork himself and give up. He let out a wail like a wolf's howl and dropped me again to the ground. A few coughs and sounds of vomiting followed with a thump.
I rolled over feeling like my shoulder was on fire. My cell phone was busted. The rain was spreading my blood all over the alley. My eyes met the bright lights of flashlights moments later, followed with the signs of beeps.
"He's here! Looks like he bit the big one," one of the cops say. Flashing his light onto me he yells, "WE'VE GOT A LIVE ONE!" As he picks me up he sees my barcode. "IT'S A UNIVERSAL! HE ATTACKED A UNIVERSAL!"
The other cop comes over and pulls my collar back. "Damn. This is really, really bad. If this gets back to the VCS there will be hell to pay. I wish they had listened to us! But no, their Royal family does what they want. We can't let the son of the VCS President cause a problem. Get him up into the van and say that he was found dead due to food poisoning."
"And what about her? She needs medical attention."
"We'll drop her off at the hospital entrance. They'll figure it out. Someone will see her. Let's get out of here."
"Her name is Marissa Reese."
"And have we confirmed her bar code?"
"Wow, this is bad."
As I opened my eyes, I met the glare of a nurse looking back at me. "Hey there Missy. Welcome back. How do you feel?"
"I...I feel ok...very sore," I said, looking around the room. Hospital rooms are all the same. The curtains around the bed for privacy, the TV mounted at the very top of the wall, and that bed beside you that seems to never have anyone in it. When they do, they're dying for some apparent reason."
"You were apparently dropped off at the doors of the ER. Going by the looks of things you was attacked by a dog or something."
A dog or something. Okay.
"We've given you antibiotics for the swelling but it's going to take some time. There was no serious damage. Looks like you got roughed up and came away with a dog bite. You're lucky."
"It wasn't a dog. It was bigger. I need to speak with the police."
"Of course, but first, we have Reps from the VCS here to see you."
Are you kidding me?
"Ok, sure," I said, mincing through the pain. As they came in they looked around the room and put the shades down in the windows. "Figures. Afraid of a little light?"
"Of course not. That would be cliche," the one in the black suit said. "My name is Damascus Lor, and my partner that's eating your lunch is Gale Aubrey. We were notified that a Universal was attacked and came by to see how you were doing. As you know, without you all, this world would be chaos."
"So they tell me," I said. "Well, I guess I got attacked by a dog from behind. But it was a very, very, big dog. When he bit me something happened. I passed out and woke up here."
Both men look at each other. "Did you get a look at it?"
"No, I just said he attacked me from behind."
"Of course. Are you feeling anything else besides pain?"
"No. I'm just very sore. I need to speak with police."
"We will call them for you and have them visit."
Ok, not so bad. This kinda works out. I don't have to speak to them, and they can handle the light work.
"As a contributing member of the VCS, we are your representation when something happens. We're going to make sure you're taken care of properly and before you know it, you'll back on your feet contributing to the cause and living out your life."
Contributing to the cause first, of course. Politics.
Both men waved as they walked out the door.
"Hello? I'm calling on behalf of the VCS in the case of Marissa Reese. I think we've found something here...No, she survived and is healing beautifully. Something tells me she got a look at the attacker. As soon as we can get that out of her, the sooner we can neutralize this situation....Yes Sir, of course. It's just a blessing she made it. And yet, I find it intriguing. We have to find out what happened when he bit that Universal. I think there's an X factor....Of course. Thank you Sir."
Damascus hangs up the phone and looks out the window as they head back to the Vampire Control Center (VCC).
The bite on my shoulder burned. It felt like I had leaned my shoulder out the window on a very hot Summer day and let the rays just burn me. Then there were times I would catch the chills. These were very odd feelings. I chalked it up to fever and made sure I stayed on my meds. It's been about three days and I'm feeling great mentally, going over the course of that night. Was it a dog? It grabbed me from behind though. It chomped down on me and then fell back. It went into convulsions and died.
What did my blood do to it? Obviously there's a connection.
I rose up and reached for the clipboard hanging on the front of my bed. It had the regular stuff, from temperature, blood pressure to when I last ate and went to the bathroom. It listed the meds I was taking and when to take them. Nothing was out of the ordinary. I flipped through everything as a new nurse came into my room with lunch.
Her eyes were flickering blue. She was a blood sucker.
"Hi there. I brought you some lunch. I hope you like hamburgers."
I watched her as she tried to gain control over the color of her eyes, blinking crazy. "I'm sorry about this," she said, pointing at her eyes. "I just had something to drink and I'm still well, coming down from the moment."
For them, the blood was not only subsistence, but euphoric. They reacted the way we react to drinking hard liquor. During work hours however, they're supposed to regulate how much they drink to keep their composure. It wasn't that she was going to go crazy, but her focus was still on the moment. She was right to apologize, but I still watched her.
"It's ok. Burgers are fine as long as they're well done. I don't like my meat mooing," I said with a slight laugh. So much for lifting the pressure in the room.
"Oh yeah, the blood, got it," she said laughing. She clutched her chest as as laughed. I think she was grateful for my lack of judging. "So have you taken your meds yet?"
"Nah. I figured I'd wait until I ate to do that. Taking medication on an empty stomach made me want to throw up the last time."
"Ok," she said. "Just make sure you do that so that the fever stays down. That bite is not healing fast at all."
I looked down at it and realized it was slightly bleeding. I glanced up at the nurse and her eyes had returned to that blue flicker she entered the room with. She was breathing heavy, slightly backing up towards the door and yet never taking her eyes off of my shoulder. I covered it up with my gown and that seemed to snap her out of her trance. She then glanced at me directly, and looked down at the floor.
"I...I am so sorry. That right here, that's what holds us back from ever being truly accepted. It took me a long time just to get into Nursing school and still I was judged for who I was. I'm working very hard to have a life worth living. I want to be more than what I was born as. Maybe I was born in the wrong body. I don't know, but I mean it. I'm really, really sorry."
I smirked. Girl you wanted to devour my shoulder just now.
"Chill out. It's ok. Really. You can't change what you are completely. I mean, who are they to judge your goals right? If God wanted better for you then he wouldn't have made you with these desire or put you in this situation to where you need blood to survive right? We're all dealt a card for a reason. Trust in the cards you hold and play them. Otherwise fold and leave the table."
She smiled. Ok, I'm safe.
"Thanks for the kind words. I...I don't believe in God because this is too much for a person to bear. Why create me like this when he knows I cannot bear this? I do believe that we're put here for the sake of balance in humanity though. Somewhere between evolution and progress we're a deciding factor of some sort."
I shrugged my shoulders. "Maybe we are."
Smiling again, she picked up my lunch tray. "I've babbled long enough. Eat up, get some rest okay? I think they'll probably let you go tonight. Enjoy the royal treatment while you have it, " she said.
Interrogation, a flimsy robe, and a vamp with a conscience. Royal treatment isn't what I'd call this.
She was right. That evening I was dressed and checked out. They gave me meds for the fever but that night it was unbearable. The meds were nothing. I didn't tell them that because I was just ready to go. I kept my head down as I walked down the street, this time sticking to the sidewalks and not the alley shortcuts. It felt great to be home. Walking up to my door I noticed a note from Paul stuck to it. It read:
"Hey short stuff...Haven't seen you in days. Where are you? I hope you're ok. I've been watching the news so I assume you've been behaving yourself. If you're with that other guy tell him that I got first dibs. Haha, never the case with you. Call me when you get home."
Paul, the hopeless romantic/friend/thirsty guy that's too funny not to be around. As long as the world has silly people like him around, it's not that bad.
"Thank you. Please show me your mark for verification."
I reached up and pulled back my collar to reveal my read barcode. "That's a nasty bite you got there."
Snap. I totally forgot about that.
"Yeah, I was bit by a dog. But I'm clear though I have meds and stuff."
The nurse checked out my meds and read the labels. "Should be fine...not that anything makes them sick anyway."
Those that needed blood to live were immune to all diseases. When they started integrating into the population in 2019, most, if not all diseases around the world ceased to exist. The CDC works on a skeleton crew nowadays. The health industry lost billions of dollars in the medication business alone. We were better, and we felt better. For humans, to be bitten was to turn completely into one of them. Sexual contact however, simply exposed you to their enzymes and fluids like any other moment of intimacy. Prostitution among those needed blood spiked tremendously because who doesn't want to be healthy? Sexual contact with them saved people's lives. In response, the VCS authorized "Red Light" districts to regulate the activity. They said it was to keep everyone safe.
This was politics. This was to regulate the money.
I could feel the tug of the tube as it trained me of my plasma. I was slightly dizzy, but nothing out of the ordinary. I did notice the fever was gone. Maybe it was for that night. Maybe the meds finally kicked in, who knew.
That afternoon after doing my part for society I called Paul but got no response. I figured he'd found a skirt to chase in my absence so I went to a coffee shop to relax. I gave blood at noon, yet I was still dizzy at 6 p.m. It's been a rough couple of days, and my immune system is probably wrecked.
"Oh wow, this is crazy!" I heard someone say as they stood at the counter. I looked over as the Barista turned up the TV. The scene was horrifying as bodies laid everywhere in a building.
"TODAY THE VCS IS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW A GROUP OF THOSE WHO RELY ON BLOOD TO LIVE DIED THIS EVENING. REPORTS INDICATE LOUD SCREAMS WERE HEARD FROM THE BUILDING BEFORE THE BODIE WERE DISCOVERED. "WE WERE CALLED TO THE CORPORATE FACILITY AROUND 87 P.M. TONIGHT TO DISCOVER MORE THAN 50 CITIZENS DEAD"
Citizens--code word for Vamps. Cause you know, they're not human.
"AS THE VCS INVESTIGATES THIS HORRIBLE SCENE, I ASK EVERYONE TO CALL OUR HOTLINE SET UP TO SEND IN ANY AND ALL LEADS THAT YOU MAY HAVE CONCERNING THIS. AT THIS TIME BECAUSE IT WAS ALL CITIZENS WE'RE GOING TO CONSIDER THIS A HATE CRIME. THE VCS APPRECIATES YOUR COOPERATION," the spokesperson says as she walks away.
"What happened?" I asked the crowd gathered around the TV. "Rumor has it that someone slipped some bad blood into the VCS center today. Usually they don't check for pathogens because nothing hurts them at this level. Whoever did it I want to shake their hand," a guy said as he sipped his coffee. "When things like that happen it just goes to show they weren't born that way as they say. They altered their body and now they just want us to believe what they say they are, knowing they're just like us. I hope they all die."
"WE HAVE NEW INFORMATION JUST COMING IN THAT THE CAUSE OF THE DEATHS ARE INDEED ATTRIBUTED TO TAINTED BLOOD. THIS COMES AS A SHOCK FOR THE VCS BECAUSE IT WAS PREVIOUSLY BELIEVED THAT AS LONG AS THE BLOOD WAS FROM A UNIVERSAL THERE WOULD BE NO PROBLEMS. NOW WE HAVE NEW INFORMATION THAT THE BLOOD INDEED CAME FROM AN O-NEGATIVE, WHICH RAISES THE STAKES ON WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT TO AVOID CONFLICT."
And then I saw him. The man himself. "The Advocate of Blood Suckers", Dr. Silas Constantine. "I can assure you the public the VCS will get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again. We may be roughly 5 to 10 percent of the population, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't get the same rights and protections as our human counterparts. We didn't choose this. It chose us. We're just trying to live our lives alongside you all in harmony. The VCS appreciates your continued cooperation."