Breathless

Here’s the latest addition to a small collection of short stories I’m writing set in the universe of my upcoming novel! It’s a 2.7k-word story about a marine biologist vampire. This particular story is dedicated to one of my best friends who is a marine biologist and gives the story her marine seal of approval! (Get it, seal? Like the marine animal? I’ll see myself out…)

Content warning for violence.

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Breathless

by

Evelyn Silver

The best part about being a vampire was that Nicola Rodriguez didn’t need to breathe. She’d been skeptical about the perks of immortality and the discomforts that came with it when she’d been turned near the end of graduate school studying marine biology, but quickly realized that it meant she no longer needed air tanks, respirators, or even a wetsuit. She could sit at the bottom of a reef for hours studying polyps or dive in freezing temperatures to swim with seals wearing nothing but a bikini. She could even peruse the oceans by night with her new nocturnal vision, observing bioluminescent nature as she never could have as a mere human. A simple dietary alteration and eternity of hiding her true nature from humans was nothing in exchange for such a boon.

Image is of the model whale in the Museum of Natural History

Nicola’s biggest love, pun intended, was whales. Blue whales had captivated her ever since she’d gone to the Museum of Natural History in New York as a little girl and stood underneath the giant model hanging from the ceiling, marveling at the largest creature ever to grace the planet. From that moment, it had become her goal in life to swim with one in the wild. When she graduated, getting a job in her field seemed inconsequential. As a human, it would have been vital, but as a vampire, she could chase knowledge for knowledge’s sake. She had an eternity to seek her own desires stretched before her like the Gulf Stream. And so the moment she threw her cap in the air, diploma in hand, she had bought herself a small boat, loaded the fridge in the cabin with type A+ blood (her favorite flavor) purchased from a friendly nurse who didn’t pry into Nicola’s secret, and jetted off into the Atlantic to find a blue whale.

Her improved hearing allowed her to listen in the water for sounds too low for humans to hear without hydrophones to enhance the soundwaves. As if she were one of them, Nicola listened to the songs. It was something she could feel in the water as well as hear, something eerie and soulful, yet as unknowable as an eldritch deity beckoning from the depths. They led her through the ocean, towards her goal.

When she found the whale somewhere near the coasts of Iceland, at first she thought it was a fin whale – a large cousin of the blue. While delighted to see its spout and tail, and then to see it clearly when she jumped in the water with it, she still hoped to find a blue. Yet, as she drifted and observed, some traits didn’t quite fit. From above, the mammal looked like a fin whale. However, it was easily ninety feet long; too large for that species. It was clearly female – Nicola was delighted to see that she was very visibly pregnant and that a second massive heart could be heard beating within its body – but there was something different about her. Something special. Her phenotypical traits when viewed from within the water bore great resemblance to a blue whale. Joy jolted through the vampire as she realized what a rarity she’d found.

The whale was a hybrid.

The wind might as well have been filled with lightning instead of brine and salt as it warped around her body, unsticking her short, black hair from her pallid skin. There was anticipation in every second, in every inch of her body. She needed to see the whale again. The sun gleaming off the waves like gold leaf on the edges of an old book risked blinding her from the sight she wanted – it did not burn her, but with eyesight so sensitive, Nicola’s naturally nocturnal state left her squinting and her eyes in pain as they strained against the light.

Nicola saw the whale begin to dive, and made her way back to her boat. She scribbled in her notebook everything she’d seen, furiously sketching with a speed that left small tears in the paper from the pencil tip. She needed to know everything about her find. She turned on a machine she’d brought with her that emitted a high pitched noise so that she could follow it back to the boat if she got carried away too far, tightened her goggles, and perched on the edge of her boat to await the whale’s resurface in what she anticipated would be fifteen minutes at most.

Finally, there it was. A firework made of water vapor burst twenty or more feet into the air as the hybrid breached and filled her lungs. Nicola dove into the cold water and swam with inhuman speed, propelling herself forward with the darting grace of a marine mammal to position herself fifty feet below the surface, looking up at the whale’s massive belly. She opened her mouth wide, the ventral grooves stretching to accommodate the water, and lunged along the surface to swallow a cloud of krill. Her body rippled as she pushed the water through her baleen plates, slowly deflating so that she could feed, oblivious or unconcerned with her spectator. Nicola blinked to try and wipe the tears away. It was hard to believe she’d managed to see something so beautiful in person.

Part of what she loved was how little the whale cared. On land, animals reacted negatively to her. Cats would hiss and dogs would bark when they encountered a creature that had no warmth or heartbeat, yet still walked and talked. In the water, something as gargantuan as a whale had no reason to concern itself with Nicola and whether she was alive or undead. It made her feel small and insignificant, but in the best way possible.

Image is of a hybrid blue/fin whale named Flue

She swam as fast as she could to get close to the whale as it prepared to dive again. As a human, she would have never had the audacity to attempt what she wanted nor perhaps the ability, but now… Nicola made her way to the pectoral flipper on the whale’s left side and held on. It was large enough to be a separate organism all together, much larger than she was, and yet the hybrid whale herself was so much larger. From a distance, one could appreciate the power and size, but up close was like touching a god. Nicola was ecstatic. As she held on, the whale inverted and swam downward into the abyss below them.

The whale moved incredibly fast. The water parting around them had such pull that it was almost difficult for Nicola to hold on, especially with its song reverberating through her bones. But she did, determined to see what the whales saw. They dove together deeper and deeper. Light from the sun above grew dimmer, and Nicola’s eyes adjusted comfortably. Her ears, however, did not. They popped from the pressure, which she held her nose and blew out several times to try and alleviate. The deeper they went, the more uncomfortable the pressure became.

Most of what Nicola saw was an endless oceanic void. But something beautiful stirred in the distance. She could tell it was easily two or even three times as large as she was, with tentacles: a giant squid. She considered for a moment letting go of the whale to study the squid, but decided against it: something told her it was hungry, and she didn’t want to see who would win in a battle of vampire versus squid. It soon disappeared into the deep blue, and the pressure from the water continued to mount.

The idea of swimming with the hybrid as far as it would take her became less and less brilliant. Sure, she was more resilient than a human, and the increasing chill barely registered, but how many pounds of pressure could she take with the weight of the ocean bearing down on her head before it became too much? If her skull failed or her heart was crushed, she would die and turn to dust, carried away by the current. Just as she felt she could take no more, the hybrid turned its large body and began to swim back through the twilight waters and up toward the setting sun.

Image is of ocean water looking up at the surface

When they were close to the shimmering surface, Nicola released the whale’s flipper from her iron grasp and darted back to her ship, flopping onto the deck like a defeated fisherman’s quarry. Nothing in her life or death had ever been so grand. 

She downed a bag of A+ blood. No doubt the pressure had caused cracks in her skull, perhaps even fractures in other parts of her skeleton. They would have healed easily, but healing was exhausting. As a relatively new vampire, she didn’t have the best control over her bloodlust when she was hungry (yet another good reason to be alone on a boat in the ocean), but since it was refrigerated rather than fresh and warm blood, she was able to keep herself from attacking her supply.

Wiping the red from her lips, Nicola found her notebook and wrote everything she’d seen in the dive, how the water felt, the pressure, the whale’s swimming patterns, and even the glimpse of the squid. When she was done with her notes, she hung her one-piece bathing suit up to dry in what remained of the sunlight, and watched the whale spout several more times, sticking her head underwater to hear its song so that she could follow it. Another boat appeared in the distance, with engines that made a distracting noise, but she was able to focus on her friend due to proximity. After a third spout, she hopped into the water again, deciding to forgo the bathing suit since no one else was there to see her. She wanted another dive and that was all that mattered. The physical strain on her body only made it more thrilling to her that this was something she could do as a vampire, but not a human.

Once again, they returned to the deep. There was no squid, only the company of her pregnant whale and the song she used to send vibrations through the water. Being so close gave Nicola the distinct impression of being next to speakers at a rock concert. Again the pressure mounted, and the whale swam without thought to its stowaway. It fed on krill, its throat ballooning with tons of water to stream it free around the pair, now devoid of the shrimp it devoured. How odd, that something so large preyed exclusively on something so small. In truth, it made Nicola a little jealous: it would be easy for her to prey on ants, but she was stuck with humans.

As they swam back towards the surface, Nicola’s head ached from readjusting to the pressure above. She would need a little more to drink, that was certain. If she wanted to keep diving with whales, she would have to ration her blood bags, or perhaps dock somewhere to restock. She knew Iceland was close and that there were some vampires who called the country home, so there had to be someplace there she could resupply without too much suspicion. If she had enough and stayed with the whale long enough, perhaps she could even witness the birth of the hybrid’s calf.

Then, as the whale spouted into what was now the night sky and Nicola looked for her boat, a mind shattering cry of agony pierced her ears and made her body tremble. She tasted blood in the water, but not human blood. Nothing so sweet. It was whale blood.

Water and Blood – The Jagged Word
Image is of red water

The hybrid turned down to flee, a wound across her eye losing gallons of blood. Nicola spun around in the water, looking for the source, and found a boat, reeling in a harpoon. The red she saw clouding her vision had nothing to do with the blood in the water. How dare they? How dare they harm her companion, harm a pregnant treasure of nature? She darted towards the harpoon and gripped the cable, letting it pull her up towards the monsters.

When the machine pulled her on deck, men stared in shock. No doubt they expected a whale instead of a woman wearing nothing but goggles. Words began to fly in a language Nicola didn’t understand, but they didn’t matter. All that mattered was that these people had tried to kill a pregnant whale. It would surface again when it ran out of air, and these ignorant humans would try again to kill her. They had to be stopped. She yanked off her goggles and silence fell across the men. Her irises had turned red with anger and she could feel the fangs elongate in her mouth. In the water, whales and squids dominated. But above the water, she was the most powerful creature on the planet.

One of the men pulled out a necklace and held it up, shouting in some Nordic tongue. It was a golden cross. But there was something else about him, something she could smell under the scent of saltwater and whale blood. Human blood – he had a scratch somewhere, or perhaps a rope burn. It was fresh and warm and she needed it with a dry desperation she’d never known since her first day as a vampire. 

Before she could comprehend her own desires, Nicola was on top of the man, sinking her teeth deep into his jugular. Blood spurt, bursting like overripe fruit in her mouth, drenching down her bare front. It was perfection, her mind in a haze that let her ignore the screaming around her until pain shot through her shoulder. She cried out in a gutteral noise drowned in blood, and dropped the corpse to pull a knife out of her shoulder. 

The man who stabbed her looked afraid, his fear a tantalizing scent in the air. He was next, his mortal body crumpling with the slightest effort from her and his taste intoxicating.

The rest began to scream and scramble, looking for weapons they could use against her. One managed to get to the harpoon, but she was faster. Her teeth sunk into his flesh, seeking to consume his warmth, to steal it from him. 

As fresh human blood coated the deck, her senses engulfed her entirely so that all she saw was crimson. New vampires were notorious for their inability to control themselves, and Nicola proved herself no exception. She feasted without conscience, indulging in the gluttony of it all, bathed in the blood of the would-be whale murderers. She was Artemis come to life, glowing pale in the light of the waning moon, avenging her friend’s wound and delighting in the hunt. 

Image is of the Milky Way in the sky

When the last of the humans’ hearts were silenced, she stood below the outstretched sky, looking up at the Milky Way and the billions of stars smiling down on her, their reflections winking in the pools of blood that appeared black in the dim light.

Looking at the mess she’d made, guilt twisted in Nicola’s gut. She didn’t know exactly what she’d intended by boarding the whalers’ vessel, but this hadn’t been it. Still… the predator in her purred in contentment. And they’d been illegally hunting a rare blue/fin hybrid whale – a pregnant one at that. Even if it had been only a blue whale, the attack would still have been illegal. Perhaps the punishment didn’t fit the crime, but it was better than a fine. Or worse, no punishment at all. At least she wouldn’t need to feed again for a long while. And she could use her vicious attack as a warning to other whalers, saving both their lives from her bloodlust and the lives of her underwater friends. 

Nicola went to the wall of the cabin and scrawled “Demeter” there using her victim’s blood as paint. The Dracula reference amused her, and perhaps the ominous message would keep other whalers out of the water, though hopefully didn’t out vampires to humans too obviously. Any sane human would assume it was a sick joke by another human.

A column of water erupted in the distance, like sparkling glitter in the moonlight. The whale was safe for now, and her precious calf had a chance to be born. As far as Nicola was concerned, all was right. 

****

If you liked this story, give a like and follow for more content. Be sure to check me out on twitter at @EternalEvelyn or Facebook and stay tuned for information on my upcoming paranormal romance novel, The Bloodline Chronicles! Subscribe to my newsletter to keep up with new developments here.

If you’d like to read more short stories in my book’s universe, check out sub+Human for a fang-tastic kinky good time or Galit’s Golem for a little witchy romance! Both are m/f, but next romance short story will be f/f, so stay tuned and follow to catch it!

3 thoughts on “Breathless

  1. Pingback: Pomegranate Sonata | Evelyn Silver

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