Vampires have a tough row to hoe, really. The Unspoken Ones in my vampire romance series, Blood Stone, found it easier to withdraw from society and the world at large after a millenia or two of passing through history, rather than trying to adapt and change any more. Once they had withdrawn, they developed very strange behaviours and attitudes, off in their isolation.
One character in the second novel of the series, also called Blood Stone, is Nial. Nial is so old he also qualifies for the status of Unspoken One…but he isn’t one. How did he managed to avoid that awful abyss? How did he stay happy for over a millenia?
There’s a clue in the first book, Blood Knot, when the woman that would become his wife quizzes him on truth telling. Winter can adjust other people’s biologies by touching them, and she attempts to “read” Nial by touch:
For the tiniest fraction of a second, Nathanial hesitated. Then he lifted his hand out to her. He had a big hand, to match his height and frame. But unlike Sebastian, he did not have the long, sensitive fingers. His were strong, the palm square. There were calluses below the fingers. Winter touched them.
“From my sword,” Nathanial said.
“But…that must have been years ago.”
“Centuries, actually. Our physiologies do not change, Winter.” His gaze was steady, defying her to be appalled or horrified.
She covered his hand with both of hers and edged her senses inside him. It was the same deadness she remembered from her incursion inside Sebastian. But it wasn’t all black and dead and darkness. There was life of a sort. Just not life as she understood it. The heart was there, capable of beating. Blood, and veins and arteries. All the organs were where they should be. They were all dormant, ready to function as needed.
“Do you like football, Nathanial?”
“NFL? Bores me silly,” he told her. His body remained still. Silent.
“What do you like?”
“Sports are vague posturing of people who have forgotten why they do what they are doing. Did you know that most team sports were originally conducted to prepare men for war?” He shook his head. “I find them vapid and shallow.”
She smiled. “Well, I guess I asked for your true opinion.”
Nathanial smiled. “You did.”
“Very well. What do you like that isn’t sports? What gets you excited? Apart from sex?” she added hastily.
The gleam in his eyes told her the final proviso had been just in time. He considered for a moment. “There is no one thing that I consistently turn to. But there are many things that move me. I find them every day. You just have to be open to seeing them and they come to you.”
“I don’t understand,” Winter confessed.
“The modern philosophers and cultural psychologists of this day and age advise everyone that they should have a hobby that they’re passionate about, to give them an interest in life. That’s what you’re trying to ask me about now. Truth is, Winter, I ran out of time and patience for maintaining interests decades ago. Now, I just follow life. There’s always something new to learn and life always gives me something beautiful to appreciate. Something to get excited about.” He nodded towards the window. “Like your hair outlined by the sunset a moment ago. They were the perfect compliment.”
And she felt his heart shift just a little.
“Have you ever stopped to truly smell the bergamot in a pot of fresh Earl Grey tea, Winter?” he asked. “I’ve forgotten what it tastes like now, but the smell is divine.”
Blood stirred and flowed, pushed by his heart.
“I like studying the stars, because they’re older than me, and they make me feel very small, humble and insignificant. They haven’t changed in all the years I’ve looked up at them, despite the massive changes I’ve seen on Earth. I find that astonishing and comforting at the same time.”
Again, the small flutter of his heart beating.
“Every day there are small things. A kitten asleep in a plant pot. The sun rising over the snow and turning it pink. Hoar frosts still take my breath away with their beauty despite the hundreds I have seen. The kindness of the stranger who pays for the next person’s drinks at the coffee shop. The rudeness of tourists in Jasper during the summer season. The unconscious beauty of young people who don’t realize they have everything ahead of them and are enjoying their every moment now, just as they should.
“And then sometimes I am rewarded by meeting someone like you, Winter, who stirs me so strongly I am forced to hide my reactions with professional techniques.”
And his heart squeezed. Hard. It began to beat with a normal systolic pulse.
[Extract from Blood Knot – copyright © Tracy Cooper-Posey 2010]
When the Unspoken Ones become a more active force in Blood Stone, Nial has to explain himself and his great age and happy outlook yet again. This time, his answer is a little less patient and a lot less complicated:
“I was born in the year five hundred and fifty-nine in what is now called northern Italy. I’ll save you some mental gymnastics. That was one thousand, four hundred and fifty-three years ago. But I think of myself as…” He shrugged. “In my thirties.”
Roman was scowling again and Garret recognized the expression as the one he used when he was thinking hard and disagreeing with the stated opinion.
“Euphrasia didn’t think of herself as thirty,” Garrett guessed.
Roman just scowled harder.
“The unspoken ones aren’t some sort of exclusive club to which you get invited by brown-nosing and paying membership dues,” Nial told them. “There isn’t an arbitrary age cut-off that says ‘at this point you become an unspoken one.’ Euphrasia simply didn’t want to be a part of modern life. She hated it. You spent a week on her island, Roman, so you tell me – what did it make you think of?”
Roman shrugged, still glowering. “Constantinople, like when I was a child. But simpler. Peaceful.”
“That was her version of ancient Athens,” Nial told him. “A far more comfortable and insulated one. She arranged it so she didn’t have to adapt anymore. She could just go on as she was, unchanging and uninterrupted.”
“But you didn’t choose that way,” Roman pointed out. “When every other vampire as old or older than you did choose it…or died. As far as I know you’re the oldest of the blood who still actively passes. Why didn’t you retire to coddle your worn psyche like the others?”
Nial shrugged. “I don’t know. Because I’m stubborn? Because something interesting came along just at the right time? Because I’ve been terribly lucky, all my long, long life. Who does know? I don’t look back, Roman. Well, not that often and I try not to linger on the unpleasantness, of which there’s been far too much. But I can tell you that I did think about chopping myself off from the world more than once. There is definite appeal to not having to go through the tiresome routine of change, over and over. But change is what makes life so damned interesting, too. And I can tell you when I stopped considering the idea altogether, when it became an absolute impossibility for me.”
“When you made Sebastian,” Garrett answered.
Nial glanced at him and smiled. “Of course, you would have that figured.”
Roman sat back in the sofa again. He almost threw himself back, as if he was frustrated, or made angry by the answer, but didn’t dare show it. “Is that why you defied the edicts and kept Sebastian with you all those years?”
Nial’s smile didn’t fade. “I didn’t keep Sebastian with me. He stayed because he wanted to. He still does. But in the way you mean, he kept me alive, yes.”
[Extract from Blood Stone– copyright © Tracy Cooper-Posey 2012]
These are the moments I thought of when I wondered about vampire happiness and positive thinking. Nial has some pretty definite ideas about what keeps him centred and moving forward through his many days and nights:
- Focus on the positive stuff
- Find pleasure each day, even in the smallest of things
It seems to me that’s a pretty good recipe for humans, too, wouldn’t you say?