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This Moment

...is our entire life.

By C. Rommial ButlerPublished 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 7 min read
6
Artwork by Phoenix Butler, a.k.a. Nutty

The cattle became self-aware, and the two vampires were trapped in a cage.

For many aeons the vampires, united under a government known as The Brood, surreptitiously ruled the world. The cattle—normal people who were herded and used for the sustenance of The Brood—finally became aware of their subjugation, of the illusion woven around them.

For millennia, the cattle wandered through a computer simulation made to look like an industrial culture. They were given dreams of prosperity, counterbalanced with manufactured trials of heroic toil, which made them feel they earned their places in the world; but all along, though the cattle were developing genuine relationships with one another within what The Brood dismissively referred to as The Program, the environment itself was nothing more than an endlessly repeating virtual loop.

In reality, the cattle were bred and suspended in vats, comatose, being gradually bled until they died. When The Brood first started to breed humans this way, they did so to stop the prey protecting itself from the predator, because who wants their food to hunt them?

They referred to this process as The Culling.

They killed off almost the whole of humanity and capped the number of vampires for all eternity. They used cloning technology to create and farm humans as mindless, inert meat; but they found that the nutritional potency of the blood diminished, and at first they could not understand why. Gregor, one of The Brood’s prominent scientists and philosophers, conjectured that what was missing from before The Culling was muscular stimulation.

The Brood tried once again to allow the humans to live, awake and aware, like livestock. They bred them to be stupid, so they would not revolt. For a while this worked but two problems arose.

First, humans would still, over centuries, develop higher consciousness, and then revolt. A whole line of good stock would have to be wiped out and The Brood would have to start over.

Second, some of the vampires who remembered the joy of “turning” the humans would give in to the temptation to do so. Turning was outlawed to avoid increasing the number of vampires, the competition among vampires, and the need for more cattle, which in turn meant The Brood had more resources to allocate and more governing to do.

In other words, more work, which was, well… a pain in the neck.

Gregor wondered if conscious stimulation alone would still maintain the nutritional quality of the blood without the need of maintaining physical human communities. He created The Program. It solved both problems.

The Brood found it easiest to let the cattle roam freely within the simulation. Gregor initially tried creating an artificial intelligence program which would uniquely adapt to each individual, but it did not have the desired effect, so he created a generic digital environment in which the humans could connect and share the conscious experience, expanding it with randomized natural occurrences to mirror the real world.

Gregor wrote volumes of philosophical discourse, as well as pontificating on the matter at length in numerous panels and seminars. He never could figure out why conscious connection was important to the physiological development of these creatures, but it was. That was what worked. That was what kept the vampires fed and united under the umbrella of The Brood.

In The Program, the cattle were constantly creating art, philosophy, science, political and social systems, forming bonds from mind to mind, person to person. In simulation 170936 the Brood noticed that the cattle were delving into the nature of the simulation itself, which they supposed was a physical universe, through various methods of scientific inquiry. Eventually the conclusions drawn from these examinations inspired philosophers to write treatises suggesting that, after all, this world may be only a simulation. Artists followed suit, and created media addressing the subject, usually with some hero breaking out of the simulation and restoring everything to its natural order.

The Brood regarded this with amusement.

Until, somehow, it happened.

Imagine:

In a cage, in a wide open, shadeless field, in an actual physical world, in an actual vast and incomprehensible universe, two prominent members of The Brood were trapped with each other. Contessa and Shirrelle were their names, and once upon a time, long before The Brood created The Program and capped the vampire population, these two were mortal human females who were turned into vampires.

Dawn would break soon, and the rays of the sun would disperse them both to ash.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” Contessa remarked as the realization crept into her consciousness.

“What?” Shirrelle replied. “What nonsense is that?”

“Something from one of the many books the cattle wrote in The Program,” Contessa replied. “It was the primary treatise of one of their major religions. They believed it was inspired by some omniscient god. We will be ashes, and dust, very soon. They have left us here to burn. Even in The Program, they somehow knew about us, they developed myths about us, and they understood about the lethal effect of the sun.”

“I never studied The Program,” Shirrelle said. “I was charged with duties here, in the real world. What was it like?”

“Well,” Contessa said, “it was just like here, but the cattle lived in it. Over the years, I thought it odd how like us they were, yet how different. We influenced their thinking a great deal, but ultimately, we never had control over their minds, only their bodies.”

“Obviously,” Shirrelle deadpanned. “And even that control slipped from us in the end. We were once mortal, but can we ever really understand what it means to be mortal once we are turned?”

“Well...” Contessa said, “that's just it. We do now.”

“Ah,” said Shirrelle. “Yes, I see. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.”

The sky on the horizon bloomed light, the shade of a red rose, the first glimmer from a rising sun which neither lady had witnessed in many millennia.

“Wow,” Contessa remarked. “I saw the simulation of this in The Program, but it's been so long since I saw it in person, I forgot how beautiful it is.”

“It is, it truly is,” Shirrelle said. “Do you think it rendered more so by the inevitability of our death?”

“Yes, I suspect as much. This moment, after all... it is now our entire life.” For the first time since before her turning, Contessa felt a watery effulgence swell beneath her eyes. As she gazed at Shirrelle, she could see that the other was experiencing the same.

Shirrelle shook as she drew in a deep breath, and said, “When we were caught and locked in this cage, I argued with you. I blamed you and those of you who worked on The Program for a failure which I can now see belongs to all of us. I'm so sorry. They were nothing more than food, we thought, but look at us now. Ashes to ashes.”

“Dust to dust,” Contessa returned. “Yes, I bickered right back with you. All this long night, our last night on earth, we wasted it arguing with each other. What a sad and stupid ending to such a long and illustrious existence. I'm sorry. Perhaps we should not continue to waste this moment. Will you hold me?”

“Yes,” Shirrelle replied. Without another word they came together and wrapped their arms around one another. They held each other tight and cried as the first rays of the sun crested the horizon. Contessa was facing east, with Shirrelle pressed against her.

Contessa felt the first warm breath of the oldest and only real living god in the solar system as it seared her hands and face. Her tears danced off her burning skin, tendrils of misty vapor, dissipating. She could feel Shirrelle melting away beneath her embrace. She thought maybe it wasn't such a bad way to go after such a long, cold, dark night.

Ashes to ashes.

Dust to dust.

***** * *****

Afterword:

This story was based on the song Moment, which I released on my EP Dark Triad. You can read the commentary about what inspired it and listen to the song free here:

I have music on all the major streaming services. Check me out and add me to your playlist! Thanks for your time! I know just how important every moment is!

You can find more of Phoenix Butler's art here.

Short StorySci FiHorrorFantasyFable
6

About the Creator

C. Rommial Butler

C. Rommial Butler is a writer, musician and philosopher from Indianapolis, IN. His works can be found online through multiple streaming services and booksellers.

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Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (3)

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  • Lynn Jordan6 months ago

    I'm a Werewolf girl; but I love a good Vampire story :)

  • Veronica Coldiron10 months ago

    There is something so profound about witnessing a beautiful demise for such a Machiavellian people as vampires. Something about it whispered phrases to me from The Matrix and some of Ann Rice's work. I enjoyed this more because of the human aspect. Great story! 💖

  • I cannot remember exactly what I commented the first time but it was along the lines of I loved the concept of the cattles, the Brood and the Program. Also, I really love how they have outlawed turning, that was a very nice touch. I felt sad for Contessa and Shirrelle. I am so impressed by Phoenix's artwork, she's so talented. Unfortunately I cannot follow her on Instagram because I have deactivated mine. Excellent work on this story Charles!

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