A Halloween Special: The Gift Or Was It A Curse?

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10 days ago

When Lemayian first saw her, she seemed to float off the ground because her steps didn’t make any sound. He had excellent hearing and the fact that he had looked away for a moment and turned back and she was there, startled him.  She was stunning, her red hair fell over her shoulders and went down to her waist. She had a form-fitting white Safari suit that hugged her curves.

Lemayian had been standing by his Landcruiser next to a private airstrip in the Maasai Mara waiting for a tourist who was coming into the reserve on a private charter. It was unusual because it was almost midnight, and it was late for someone to be flying in. But hey Lemayian knew not to ask too many questions.

He noticed that she only had a backpack. His car’s headlights were bright, and they acted like a spotlight on her.  She had an untamed look about her and her green eyes were dark and mysterious as she looked him in the eyes as she held out her hand. She had pale white skin, a heart-shaped face with long lashes and full lips covered in deep red lipstick. “My name is Nina,” she said with a posh English accent. She sounded soft but firm at the same time. Something told him she was dangerous, extremely dangerous. He couldn’t quite figure it out but the hairs on the back of his head were standing and that usually meant that there was danger nearby.

Nina looked so harmless but there was something he couldn’t put his finger on, that told him not to let down his guard. He had been staring at her for a minute. He extended his hand and when he greeted her, he realized she had a firm grip which was funny she looked quite fragile although she was quite tall for a lady. She looked about 5 foot 10 and her boots probably added another inch or so.

He drove her to the camp, and she didn’t look up she seemed to concentrate on her phone. Lemayian wondered what had brought her out here in the middle of the bush in the dead of night. When they arrived at the camp he got out and came to open the door for her. She had requested a private camp out in the bush away from the main camp.

There was a big green luxury tent already set up. Her tent had blackout curtains inside to ensure light would not be able to get in, a bathtub inside that had a water connection to an underground tank. There was a big mahogany bed in the middle with a 7 by 7 sparkling white mosquito net with a metallic stand. There was champagne in an ice bucket and some bittings. She had asked for some fresh meat cuts which were in a cooler box waiting to be pan-seared.

She had specifically requested for Lemayian to be her guide for the two days she would be around, and she had paid quite handsomely for the privilege. There was a rumour at the camp that she was from a wealthy family, and there were whispers that she could be royalty. The guides at the camp knew these things – they had catered to all kinds of wealthy clients and there was a way royalty behaved that was extra secretive. They liked their privacy and after being hounded by paparazzi in their countries, they wanted to relax in the bush and not have to worry that there was somebody who would alert the press to their presence.

Lemayian went about making supper. Nina had asked for rare filet mignon with no spices. He had already eaten some goat meat earlier, so he wasn’t hungry. Guests were different, some of them liked to eat with the guide and some wanted to eat alone. It was wise to always assume that they wanted their privacy as they ate so he usually ate before the guests arrived and settled or after they had gone to bed so that he could be able to serve food and drinks when they were needed if they only wanted a guide/driver.

When it was ready, he went to Nina’s tent and informed her so that she could come to eat. There were sun lamps along the path to guide her when she did come out to seat at the table. He served her then was going to leave her alone to eat but she asked him to sit and eat with her. She seemed to enjoy the meat. She didn’t talk as she ate and Lemayian being mindful that she probably did not want him to talk, kept silent.

Lemayian thought that something about Nina was quite strange, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He still wondered why she flew in during the middle of the night and wondered what kind of money she had paid to have that privilege.

Lemayian was the most sought after expert guide in the region. He had been a guide for presidents, princes and princesses and other VVIPs. His fees were high but worth it. His father had been one of the best Maasai trackers and so had his grandfather before him.

His father was wealthy, so he had a huge ranch just outside the Maasai Mara Reserve. Lemayian had gone to the local public school and on to a national school in Nairobi. Then he had travelled to the UK for his degree and masters in business. This is what his father had wanted.

When he came back Lemayian had worked at one of the most prestigious banks, but his heart wasn’t in it. He missed the simplicity of life in the bush, so he quit his job and trained as an elite wildlife ranger. He convinced some of his friends to invest in his idea and a business was born. Their company offered wildlife tours, and a luxury tented camp inside the Maasai Mara. There was somebody to do the bookings and there were other guides, and he was the best of them all. He liked to spend a lot of his time out in the wilderness.

If he had clients, he would be out with them but sometimes when he had free time, he went to help the community wildlife rangers to guard against poachers. Lemayian was an expert shooter and archer. His father had paid for lessons for him. When he went to the UK, he had furthered his training and he had even received some medals. He didn’t shoot animals for the fun of it though some of his friends did. He had always known that his duty was to protect wildlife, not to harm it for sport.

Lemayian was a social guy, quite fun to be around but he also liked solitude, so he spent a lot of time alone even as a child. He was the only child from his mother and even though his father had other wives they hadn’t taken him under their wings when his mother left and never returned at the age of 5. They never liked his mother and said that while she was around, their husband had paid them no attention, like she had put a spell on him. He was raised by his unmarried auntie who left to go to university when he was 14. But that was all right because he went to Nairobi to school and only came home for the holiday.

He had spent a lot of time with his father in the bush learning about wildlife and tracking. Although his father was wealthy, he had never liked living in the house that he had built for Lemayian ’s white mother. He preferred to live out in the bush with his livestock and would come back to visit his other wives and children every week.

Lemayian was quite clever and so he could catch up quickly on what had been missed in school, so he often went with his father and learnt from him the ways of the animals and how to be a great tracker. Lemayian had a great nose for it. He could track scents better than any other tracker – even his father who had been the best tracker in the region.

When they were done eating, Nina asked asking him questions about himself and the wildlife they were expected to see the next day. She seemed very curious about his life and what he did daily. Something made him want to talk to her, so they talked late into the night. At 2 am they went to sleep in their separate tents.

Lemayian did not need an alarm to wake him up, but he set it anyway. By 5 am he was up and getting things ready. He had asked her whether there were any activities that she wanted to do but she said she was exhausted so she wanted the early morning game drive then she would sleep. Lemayian put together a picnic basket with some sausages, bacon, eggs, cheese and bread. He made some black coffee, tea, and hot milk and put them into thermoses.

He went to wake up Nina at 5:45 but she was already awake. At 6 am they got into the land cruiser and went into the bush. In 2 hours, they had managed to see some giraffes, lions, buffalo, impala and even some lions. Leopards are rarely spotted but Lemayian managed to find one. Nina also wanted to do some bird watching and they managed to spot a few birds. She took a couple of pictures with a long-range camera.

She also asked him questions like whether he had ever killed an animal. Of course, he had but not for sport. She also asked him if he had ever killed anyone, saying that she had noted on his profile that he was an expert shooter. He said no he hadn’t. Life was sacred. But if it came down to him killing or being killed? Well, that was a different thing. It happened all the time with poachers. When confronted there would be a shootout. He hadn’t had to fire to kill before but if he had to, and his life was in danger, sure he could pull the trigger.

When they got back to camp, Nina went straight to the tent, zipped it up and didn’t even come out eat when he called her to eat lunch. He thought the jet lag had caught up with her. At around 630 after the sun had gone down and there were shadows over the land, she was up. She came out of her tent wearing a beautiful yellow gown made from some mesh material that shimmered as she walked. She sat down and wanted to smoke.

“I forgot my cigarettes. Do you have anything I can smoke?”

“Cigarettes? Sure. Let me get you some.”

“Do you have anything stronger than that?”

“Like what?’’

“I have had a couple of rough weeks and I need something stronger. Something to take the edge off. Do you have any weed?”

Lemayian said “yeah, I do but it is really strong. I don’t know…”

“Don’t worry about me, sweetheart. I can handle anything you got. Bring it”

Lemayian brought her some weed and lit it for her. She asked him if he was joining her, so he lit another one. They smoked in silence for a while as they listened to the noises of animals settling in for the night.

At around 8 he made them a meal and they ate and talked and laughed late into the night. At some point, they started drinking. She was quite amusing when she let her hair down, Lemayian thought to himself.

She said “You are quite special you know. Everyone who has met you has said you are special, and they are right. I just had to see for myself.”

Lemayian wondered what she was talking about, but he brushed it off saying it was the alcohol and weed talking so he didn’t pursue the conversation. When it was time to go to bed, she asked him to help her get up because she was wearing high heels. When she stood up, she leaned into him and looked straight into his eyes “take me to bed.” Just in case it wasn’t clear she kissed him.

“Nina, I don’t think this is a good idea…”

“Why not? Am I not your type?”

“Nina you are a client. It would be very unprofessional if we were to sleep together”

“Oh, forget about me being a client. I won’t tell if you won’t tell!” Nina giggled.

Something was telling him to say no, instinct maybe. He felt a sense of danger, but he couldn’t tell where it was coming from. He felt a compulsion, a need to go with her. It was like his mind was clouded and when she held out her hand, he took it.

When they went into the tent, they had sex and it was mind-blowing. He felt like he had an out of body experience. Just when he climaxed, he felt a prick on his neck, and he blacked out. When he woke up it was morning, the birds were chirping, and his neck was sore. Nina wasn’t there. He went out and she was gone but her backpack was on the side of his car with a note pinned to it with his name on it.

“Lemayian, Thank you for last night. I think you are an amazing man and I feel like you’d be a great addition to our squad. Inside the bag, you’ll find half a million in pounds sterling. This is a gift for your birthday. This is just a taste of what you will stand to make if you join us. Don’t worry about how to find me. I will call you on your birthday in 10 days. There is also a necklace in the bag. Please wear it around your neck it will protect you from what is coming. When you need it, you will understand what I mean! Don’t worry about me. I have made my own transport arrangements, so I don’t need you to drive me anymore. See you soon.” She had left a lipstick kiss in the note.

 

Strange woman. What the hell was going on? What did she mean by “join our squad”? How did she know that his birthday was coming up?

A call from the office came through. His colleague informed him that the client had already called and said she had left. She said she was very happy, and she had left them a big tip when she paid the 30% balance that was left.

He felt very tired all of a sudden. He went & showered, got dressed and when he went to brush his teeth, he noticed something different about his eyes. He had hazel brown eyes, but they were now amber and darker. He thought maybe it was a trick of the light or maybe the effects of the weed he had smoked last night. He was hungry so he decided to make breakfast.

There was a lot of meat left so he went to the meat cooler to grab some. For some weird reason, he felt an overwhelming need to eat raw meat. Even though he had eaten some raw meat before he liked his meat well done or medium-rare. He put the meat on the pan for two minutes then ate it and drank some coffee.

He packed his tent, cleaned up the campsite and made sure the fire was out and got into the car to wait for the team. The bigger tent would need a team to dismantle and remove everything and take it back to camp.

Lemayian had so many questions that were unanswered. Like where had Nina gone during the night? Why did he feel so tired? Why did he have noticeable bite marks on his neck? He pulled up his collar so that the bite marks could not be seen. The team would make fun of him if they knew he had slept with the client.

 A week later

For the last couple of days, Lemayian had been feeling nauseous. He had a fever and he felt like something was not quite right with his body, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. Also, his senses were getting sharper. He could hear animals’ moves from farther distances than he had before, and his eyesight has gotten sharper. He craved the taste of raw blood. Lemayian had always drunk raw blood with milk but for some reason, he felt an urge to drink just fresh blood.

Lemayian decided to go visit a friend of his father, a traditional medicine man called Tacha who would be able to give him some herbs to deal with this infection or whatever it was that he had caught.  Every time he tried to eat, he would get nauseous, and he couldn’t keep anything down. He would throw up everything.

The traditional healer looked at him and said, “something is wrong with your soul. It is shifting. The light is turning dark”

“What does that mean?” Lemayian asked in a puzzled voice.

Tacha said, “Do you know I was present just after you were born. You always had this aura around you that was bright yellow.  A symbol of a protective spirit but your aura has changed it is now red. It’s getting darker. Your mother had a similar aura. There was something about her that the ancestors did not like. Maybe that is why they made her sick and she had to go away.”

Lemayian asked, “What does that mean for me?”

The traditional healer did not answer. He cast a few stones then he examined the wound on Lemayian ’s neck. It was healing but on close examination, there were some tiny puncture wounds. Lemayian couldn’t remember anything biting him that could have caused that and then he remembered that the night Nina had slept with him he had felt some pain in his neck and then it all went blank. Could she have put something into his neck that was causing his symptoms? He was not sure, but he needed to find out.

The traditional healer said he had never seen anything like this, but he had heard about this once when the white people had come, they had also come with a disease that was unexplainable. He needed to consult but, in the meantime, he gave Lemayian something for nausea and fever and told him to keep taking it for a couple of days as he consulted.

Lemayian went back to his camp on the ranch sick. He didn’t know what this was, but his instinct told him that he needed to be away from people. There was something strange happening to his skin. He felt like he was now sensitive to the light. Whenever he would go out during the day, he would feel so much pain where the sun touched his skin. He was now forced to stay indoors until it was dark.

His 30th birthday.

Lemayian was feeling sick. He had been unable to keep anything down for a couple of days. Whenever he ate or drank anything, he seemed to feel nauseous, and he kept throwing up. He could keep the herbs down, but it seemed to help when he drank the fresh blood mixed with milk and the herbs. Lemayian was staying out in the bush because he didn’t what was making him sick to affect his friends at the camp.

He seemed to have forgotten his standard date every two weeks with a village girl who was sweet on him. Naliaka loved his looks. Looking at him, you would think he would be a model instead of a guide. He was 6 foot 4 with lean muscles. He had a round face, cheekbones any girl would love to have and a smile that made all the girls melt. Staying out in all weather conditions had darkened his skin but his short curly brown-brown hair gave it away that he was mixed race.

When Naliaka came to visit he was not in the mood to tango. He asked her to go away but she insisted on nursing him to health. She had come with some fresh milk and blood that he gobbled up. He was really hungry. Then she fed him small bits of slightly cooked meat dipped in honey. It seemed to soothe his stomach somehow. Now that he felt better, he told her some jokes to make her laugh. For some reason just like with Nina, he felt some compulsion to be near her. His heart was beating fast for some reason and his palms were sweaty.

He stood up, went into his tent and came out with a radio.  He put on some music and called Naliaka to him. This was a ritual they did all the time. She loved to dance, and Lemayian loved to dance with her. They danced for a while, their movements so effortlessly under the full moon and stars. Then a slow song came on and he brought her close. The light of the fire illuminated them and cast shadows.

When he was holding her, he felt a little lightheaded and excited at the same time. A wave of dizziness came over him as he tried to get his balance. He leaned in to tell her that they should sit but he felt an irresistible need to kiss her neck. He moved closer and strangely he could feel her heartbeat. It couldn’t be – it was probably just his illness making him feel this way. He started kissing her neck. One of his hands cupped one of her breasts and caressed it.

Then something came over Lemayian. He felt a hot, burning sensation in his stomach, and hunger he had not felt before. He felt like he needed to taste Naliaka’s blood. He tried to move away but she protested, tightening her grip around his neck. He swayed with her. For some reason, he was transfixed on her neck, and he leaned in to kiss her again but found he was biting her neck. When the first drops of blood came out, he lapped up what came out. It tasted like nectar. He wanted more.

Naliaka didn’t seem to know what was going on. She thought he was giving her a hickey. She was in her own world getting into the mood. It was Lemayian’s birthday, and she had plans for him. She was planning to make it a 30th birthday he would not soon forget.

Lemayian felt intoxicated. He never knew human blood could be this sweet. He wanted just to get a little more. Before he knew it, he dug his teeth into her neck and Naliaka screamed. Lemayian couldn’t seem to stop himself. He wanted more. He held her close as she fought him. She was strong but he was stronger. She was screaming for him to stop hurting her, but he couldn’t. He overpowered her and held on to her. Eventually, her screams turned into a whimper and then she was quiet. Lemayian continued feeding on her blood for about 10 minutes until he was sated then he dropped her. He collapsed near her unconscious again.

Lemayian stirred and woke up suddenly from a deep troubling sleep. He had been having a nightmare where… There was the smell of blood everywhere. He looked down at his clothes and he had blood everywhere. Then he looked at Naliaka, she looked like she was sleeping beside him at a bad angle. He turned her over and immediately he could tell she was dead. The front of her dress was covered with blood, and she had a huge wound on her neck.

Who had done this? What happened? Had somebody attacked them? Lemayian went around the camp, everything seemed to be just as he had left it a few hours ago. There were no footsteps leading from or to the camp except his and Naliaka’s footsteps.

Lemayian sat on the ground trying to comprehend what had happened. Just then his phone rang. It was an unknown number, but something told him it was important.

He answered the phone and said, “hello?”

“Did you enjoy your first kill?” The voice was familiar, it was Nina.

“What kill?” Lemayian couldn’t comprehend what she was saying.

“You told me you are not a murderer. But look how quickly you killed your first victim to get a taste of blood. Did you enjoy it? Was it delicious? Fresh human blood is usually so delicious.”

As if waking up from a dream, Lemayian saw a flashback of a few hours ago and he threw up. He heaved and heaved and what came out of him was clumps of black blood.

He shook his head in denial. “I couldn’t. I would never hurt somebody leave alone kill them. It can’t be.”

“Well, you did and right on time. It was your birthday yesterday and you have completed your rite of passage. Should I say welcome, or should I just tell you that the killing gets easier?”

“Who are you and what have you done to me?” Tears run down Lemayian ’s face. He felt like he wanted to faint. How could he have done this cold-blooded thing?

“I am from a race as old as time. We have chosen you to be one of us. A new breed of race that will take us through the new centuries and the challenges that face us in this new millennium.”

Lemayian ’s grip on the phone tightened. “What? What exactly is happening to me? What are those changes I am going through?”

Nina laughed then said “patience!” She paused then asked Lemayian, “what do you know about Vampires?”

Lemayian thought about all the horror movies he had watched about blood-sucking vampires. He felt a cold chill and then drops of sweat appeared on his forehead.

“Am I a vampire? What did you do to me?” Lemayian gripped the phone with desperation as he felt his heartbeat quicken.

“I didn’t do anything that was not in your destiny. We have been watching you and keeping tabs. We have been watching you grow into a strong, intelligent young man. Now that you are 30 your transformation will be complete. Embrace your destiny!

“Why me? Lemayian asked.

There was a pause like Nina was thinking about what she should tell him.

“You will come to understand why. All you need to know is that climate change and urbanization are changing our habitat and hunting grounds. Most of our homes were deep inside forests and now they are gone. The elders have now retreated to their crypts and have now fallen into a deep sleep. The only salvation for us is to find a hoard of saviour stones.”

Lemayian curiously interrupted, “what is saviour stone?”

Nina asked him, “do you still have the necklace I gave you”

“Yes.” Lemayian reached for the necklace charm he had put in his front breast pocket. For some reason now he felt like the stone had some movement. Like it was responding to his touch.

Nina continued, “wear the necklace. It will protect you when you go out in the sun and also help you be able to eat human food. As long as you wear it, you will be protected. You should always wear it if you are going to be out among humans”

Lemayian looked down at the necklace pattern that looked familiar. He was trying to place it, but he couldn’t.

“We have a task for you. We are recruiting a small army to go deep into the Congo Forests to look for the fabled saviour stone. You have been chosen to lead the team. You are one of us. You and your female mate have been chosen as part of the elite team that will recover the stone and bring it back?

Lemayian knew that he was going to sound like a broken record, but he couldn’t wrap his head around this ‘thing.’ “Why me? What mate are you talking about?”

Nina chuckled, “Patience boy!”

Lemayian didn’t like how she called him boy. What the fuck? He was thirty years old and definitely not a boy.

Nina continued like she just hadn’t insulted him. “I have lived for 278 years. Some of the things you need to know you will find out as we move along. All I want to know is, are you in or out? Let me warn you that it is difficult out there on your own. Plus, if you don’t join us one of our people will be coming back for the necklace. It belongs to one of the elders and if you aren’t joining us, we want it back. It is yours if you join us. Well until you get the saviour stone. It has its owner so if you fail well…”

Lemayian rubbed the necklace as he pondered on what Nina had said. He did not miss the threat that Nina had thrown in as a by the way. Looking at the necklace closely something clicked. He had a smaller stone that looked like this saviour stone in a charm around his neck. A charm his mother had given him as a five-year-old that she had made his father promise he would never remove. A promise his father had also made him swear to. Soon after she gave him the charm, she got sick. She went back to the UK where she was originally from, and she never came back.

Lemayian was trying to make sense of this puzzle. “I have a stone like this. A small one that my mother gave me. I had been sick, but I started getting better. That’s when they said my mother started feeling unwell.”

“I told you we have been watching you since you were a baby. Your mother was one of us, one of our warriors. She came to recruit your father, but she fell in love. Such a shame really. She decided to remain there and eventually she had you. When you started getting sick, she immediately knew what was wrong. She had hoped that you would not get the vampire sickness – the weakness in sunlight. She made the ultimate sacrifice to give you her stone so that you would live. She really loved you, you know. I don’t understand it. She should have saved herself but no, she had to fall in love. Silly girl” Nina clicked her tongue. “Anyway, she made your dad promise he would send you to England for your degree. She left funds for your schooling and enough funds for your father for him not to dip into your school funds to support his other children.”

With a feeling of dread, Lemayian asked, “Is she still alive, my mother?”

There was silence on the other end. Then Nina spoke up, “What you need to know about your mother you will find out eventually. It doesn’t have anything to do with the task at hand. It would just be a distraction at this point. What you want to know is, will you join us? We have a quest. Plus, it will make you rich. You will never have to work a day in your life and your life can go back to normal.” She laughed, “as normal as you can get now that your blood ritual is complete, and you are a full vampire. Everything will make sense in time.  All you have to do is trust me. Call me on this line in 2 days at exactly midnight and let me know what your decision is?”

Lemayian didn’t know what to do say. Before she hung up, she said, “Lemayian don’t forget that vampires are allergic to garlic. The stone will help relieve some of the symptoms but if you eat too much well…”

Nina disconnected the call.

Lemayian was left with tough decisions to make, and a mind confused by the revelations he had gotten this night. That his mother was a vampire and “they” had been watching him for years. He felt a chill up his spine. The sun was coming up. He felt like he was burning up and he gasped in pain. He quickly wore the necklace over the other necklace and the pain stopped immediately. It felt like the stone inside the necklace was vibrating and he felt a sort of humming inside his body.

Lemayian had many problems one of which was just a few metres away. The body of Naliaka.

What was he going to do?

© 2021 Rayhab Gachango 

Happy Halloween!

I would love your feedback on this story. Hoping to one day soon write the novella for it? What works and what doesn’t work for you.

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