© By Stacey McCoy
I can’t stop thinking about Rylan and how unnaturally perfect he is. He couldn’t be what I think he could be…could he?
Walking into our empty home is no surprise. I live in the city with my dad, but he’s never home, so it’s just little ol’ me here most of the time. Our condo is situated in Coal Harbour which is pretty cool. We have the most amazing views from our home, as do most people who are lucky enough to live in a high rise apartment. I love spending time simply gazing out across our beautiful city and its snow topped mountain backdrop. It’s been just dad and me for a while now. Well when I say a while, I mean since I was 2, so pretty much my whole life. I’m 20 now.
I was only a child when Mom walked out on us, and I still hate her for it. Dad insists on keeping a photo of her in sight both at home and in the lab. I can guarantee you, I don’t waste much of my time looking at it. I used to spend hours, when I was a little girl, staring at her photo wondering if I’d grow up to look like her. I prefer to keep the photo frames face down now, because now that I’m all grown up, I do look like her and I hate it.
Her hair is as long as mine yet slightly darker, and by the looks of it, thicker. And even though I have my father’s eyes, it’s obvious I have my mother’s features. Dad, when he’s home, secretly stands the frames back up and I hate that too.
Her reasons for walking out on us floors me. We haven’t seen or heard anything from her since one seemingly normal summer’s day eighteen years ago. I don’t remember it, I was only two after all. Dad’s memory of that day has never changed though. He was at work when the childcare centre Mom dropped me off at in the morning called to say they were having trouble getting hold of Noreen (My Mom) and they wondered if he knew where she was. He had no idea where she was that day, or any other day for that matter. He assumed she was home. He had to come and collect me an hour later because there was still no sign of Noreen and the centre was closing.
Once home Dad found a note on their bed.
“Roy is the man I want to be with now, and he will always be here for me. I’m sorry, but I need someone to be here for me to take care of me. You’re never here and I’m sick of being alone and unhappy. I can’t handle Kady on my own. I never know what she wants and all she does is cry. I’m sure you’ll be a better parent to her than I can ever be. Tell her I will always love her and that I am sorry, but this truly is for the best.”
I have several issues with that note. Firstly: Roy! Who the hell is Roy? Even Dad is completely clueless about this one. Secondly: Someone to take care of you! What about me? I was only two! And thirdly: I’m sorry, but if she loved me she should have talked to Dad about her issues and tried to work them out before leaving us ever became an option.
Who knew having a husband who is never home and a small kid who is curious by nature and cries a lot, would put enough pressure on someone to make them want to leave you? From what I can gather most moms have to learn to deal with similar circumstances every day. Do they up and leave their families? Most of them don’t, but my mother did.
I hate her and the lack of her.
Dad tries to justify Mom’s decision to leave us. His attempts to make me empathise with her are admirable, but I don’t buy it. He tries to remind me of her better side. He’ll say things like, ‘She always had a good heart Kady. She just needed some time to herself. Your mother seemed to find it hard to vent and express her needs, that’s all.’
I don’t seem to have that problem. I’m pretty sure Dad thinks I’m too expressive. I don’t see the point in keeping my mouth shut if something is bothering me. How the hell else is anyone supposed to know how I’m feeling if I don’t tell them? And for crying out loud, how much time does she need. It’s been eighteen years and we’ve never even received a birthday card from her.
This part of my life that’s missing has left me with a fairly thick defensive skin. Some people might say that I’m a bit of a bitch, but I don’t care. I mean I’m not a complete hard ass, I just choose not to let people in. That way I can’t get hurt.
The whole situation doesn’t seem to have changed Dad much. He still works long hours and never seems to have much time for women, probably because his heart is broken.
We talk though. When we do get time together we do talk and it’s the type of conversations that are important. Even though he’s not home much, I know he loves me and he wants what’s best for me. I respect him. He treats me like the intelligent adult he says I’ve grown to be.
I’ll be so thankful to hit the hay tonight. Work was exhausting, yet pleasantly surprising. Thinking of Rylan’s perfect features, I pass the TV cabinet in the living room on my way to my bedroom and notice one photo frame is face down. Good.
I’ve got the day off today so I decide to make my way out to the lab to see how Dad and Lawrence are doing. Almost an hour’s drive later I grab clean clothes and bedding out of the back of my car along with a handful of groceries. That’ll help tide Dad over for a few more days.
“Hey Kady, we weren’t expecting to see you today,” says Lawrence as he gives me a brief, cold hug. Dr Lawrence Chant is my best friend and has been my father’s colleague and pal for over twenty years. They met at a medical conference way back when.
Lawrence went out of his way to introduce himself to Dad who, in his words, is the most intelligent man the world has ever known.
My father, Dr Allister Matthews, is one of the countries, if not the world’s, leading researcher in the field of stem cells. Dad understands cells more clearly than any of his colleagues, so he’s able to understand the makeup of the human body better than anyone.
He endeavours to help future generations become better equipped through his findings so that we, the human race, are able to fight and cure disease and overcome any and all genetic disadvantages people may have.
Including Vamp’s disease.
Well that’s what we call it.
You see my life overall probably isn’t one that is considered, normal.
My father and Lawrence in their spare time help vampires become human again.
Dad didn’t know when he first met Lawrence that he was and, is a vampire, and he wouldn’t know until many years later.
It was Lawrence’s intention to become needed and trusted by my father before he offered to change him. He wanted to preserve Dad for all eternity. Lawrence has spent a long time walking this planet and never in all of his 136 years has he ever met a more down to earth yet unbelievably intelligent man as my father.
Years ago Lawrence offered to make dad immortal, Dad refused. He admitted to me later on that he was tempted, but the thought of watching me grow older every day and eventually dying, while he remained frozen in time, did not make immortality appealing enough for him.
“After all, it’s natural to live then die. What we do in-between is up to us,” he says.
They both work in a laboratory in the city, but they spend most of their time out in our private lab. I’ve only been into the city lab with Dad and Lawrence a few times before. Their boss David, is a bit of a grumpy old man so I tend not to raise my hand in anticipation to go when they have to go in and luckily they don’t have to go too often. As long as they’re able to continue their research regarding the cure of whichever disease they’re working on at the time, no one seems to mind.
“So what are you guys up to today?” I ask Lawrence as he helps me take my haul inside.
“Oh you know, just the usual stuff. Changing rats, watching footage, saving the world one terrible disease at a time.”
“Sounds like fun,” I say.
The lab, an abandoned mental institution, is hidden deep within the thick forest on Burke Mountain. Inside, I find my father right where I left him almost four days ago; propped up at his workbench wearing his white lab coat and a pair of denim jeans. To my surprise I see he has a fresh shirt on, which means he’s recently showered and slept.
Dad hardly ever leaves this place. His commitment to his work is commendable, but also worrying. He doesn’t know when to take a break.
Lawrence announces that I’m here. Dad rises from his chair, kisses my forehead and says, “Hi Kady. How are you sweetheart?” then returns to his work.
“Good thanks Dad.”
I watch Lawrence return to his post.
When I look at Lawrence I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be like him…to be a vampire.
He’s an attractive man, Lawrence. He has sandy blonde hair that is usually tied back and his style is a mix of relaxed, nerdy science geek. Today he’s wearing cargo pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt which has a drawing of some sort of molecule equation on it. His eyes are a deep chocolate brown and his smile is infectious.
Once Dad found out that Lawrence was a vampire, he spent a lot of time asking how it happened. He wanted to know every little detail he could remember about his initial change. His story made my father look at Lawrence as an innocent victim of a terrible disease.
Dad believes that a vampire’s bones continue to create new blood cells, just at a much slower rate than a human due to his or her internal hibernated state.
Dad’s theory of hibernation came about during his many discussions with Lawrence. Knowing that Lawrence, like every vampire, can go for days without food or drink made Dad wonder about the speed in which their internal organs were functioning. Being a scientist though, he needed proof.
Lawrence agreed with my father’s hypothesis and so they set about trying to understand the disease and how, with the help of stem cells, they could possibly overcome it, hopefully returning vampires to human form again. Around eleven years ago, they finally had their first signs of progress, though their work even now is still reasonably experimental, Dad had found a way through his research with stem cells to help return vampires to their natural human form.
At first they changed small animals into vampires. This was hard for Lawrence as he had to infect the animal by biting it without killing it. After years of practice Lawrence is now able to bite any animal and stop himself before he’s taken over by his un-natural need to continue to feed from it.
Dealing with vampire animals is not easy. Even the smallest have abundant strength as a vampire and are always difficult for Lawrence to handle while Dad tries to administer medication and do the necessary tests.
Within the confines of an old mental institution and unbeknown to any medical board on earth, Dad and Lawrence study the process of change within the animals.
They take copious notes and video footage so that they can go back and study all of the data and then begin to try and improve the process of reversing vamps’ disease.
The skin of a vampire is the hardest hurdle to overcome when trying to perform physical tests. A vampire’s skin is hard as stone and as cold as ice. Penetrating it with a needle is impossible.
By using a CT scan, which uses almost triple the amount of radiation compared to a normal gantry machine, Dad and Lawrence were able to confirm that the animal’s organs remained intact and were functioning underneath its thickened skin. Usually such a high dosage of radiation would give its subject some side effects, but they found the vampire animals didn’t seem to suffer from any adverse effects. Their thick skin appears to protect their internal organs from the extra dose of radiation.
“So Kady, do you want to come out back and help me with the rats?” asks Dad.
I hate it out there. It’s noisy and all the infected animals quite literally want to kill me. I’ll do whatever I can to avoid going out there.
“Come on Kady, you’ll be safe.”
Even my father’s comforting words have no effect on my terror-stricken heart. I know I’ll be safe, but it doesn’t make the journey into the screaming room of diseased animals any easier.
“What do you need me to do?” I ask.
“I could use a hand feeding the animals and cleaning out their cages.”
“I’m not going anywhere near the infected ones.”
“I wouldn’t ask you to. That’s why you’ll be safe.
Walking almost on my father’s heels out into the back room like a frightened child, I try to convince myself that I can handle the room of torture.
The fluorescent lit room is filled with metal wire cages. The rats infected with vamps’ disease occupy the wall of cages on one side of the room clawing and screeching at us while the cages on the wall on the other side of the room are filled with animals being returned to normal. Some are still in a great deal of pain whilst others have successfully changed back to their natural form and look just as frightened by the noise as I am. There’s a table in the middle of the room with cupboard space underneath that’s filled with rat food and cleaning supplies. I do my best to listen to my father as he explains what he and Lawrence have been up to lately, even though it’s hard to hear him over all the screeching.
“So this little guy here was infected three days ago now. His change should be complete by the end of the day.”
What my father is telling me is that Lawrence bit the poor little critter three days ago and the rat is now close to being totally infected with vamps’ disease.
It seems weird to me that no matter the size of the animal, the process of change either to become a vampire or be bought back seems to take the same amount of time. Just another quirky side effect of the disease and the cure, I guess.
Dad’s a little excited about the rat because it means he can begin to test yet another rodent with a new batch of stem cells. Their research is never ending as they work every day to perfect their discoveries.
“That’s great Dad. Now just show me what you want me to do so that I can do it and get the hell out of here.
“You’re really that uncomfortable out here Kady?”
Dad seems shocked that even after all these years I still hate being back here.
“Okay. You can go, I’ll clean up out here.”
I want to suck it up and stay and help, but instead I jump at the chance to get the hell out of the room of screeching animals.
“Thanks Dad. Sorry.”
I leave the room almost at vamp speed. I think I’ll stick to cleaning the main lab.
Dad has explained to me before how he found the cure for vamps’ disease and to be honest I can’t remember all the scientific jargon, but I get the general gist.
Dad discovered that by taking stem cells from the cord blood of an animal or human in their natural state he can, using an intranasal delivery method, administer those cells into an infected patient. The stem cells immediately begin to break down the disease inside the body. Once all of the organs have been woken from their hibernation the bone marrow begins to produce numerous new blood cells, which softens the skin. This then allows them to insert an IV directly into the patient to administer the remaining dosages, while keeping the animal, or human heavily sedated. In conjunction with massive doses of several powerful drugs, Dad and Lawrence are able to cure vamps’ disease.
The process is called Reanimation. It means to restore life to things that are otherwise considered dead.
To be reanimated isn’t easy and the procedure comes with its fair share of risks to them and us.
There are several problems with this research. Firstly; you need to find vampires. Although they’re increasingly common these days, they’re still relatively hard to find. Secondly; for our safety, it helps to find a vampire who considers their self a humanitarian (one who refuses to kill human beings for their blood), and thirdly; they need to be volunteers.
Each individual, of course, experiences different reactions during their change. When a person changes from human to vampire, they experience extreme pain for about three days. Once the process is complete, they’re barely able to restrain themselves from acting on their powerful instincts. If they’re hungry, they’ll devour greedily, and kill, mindlessly. Their increased speed is at its peak at this time. Their response time becomes outstandingly fast and their agility is beyond measuring. Overall, they are hyper alert, driven, unpredictable and frighteningly strong.
When a vampire animal or a vampire human reanimate, the pain they feel is even worse than the first transition, and it takes twice as long. Once fully reanimated and awake, patients can go on to experience severe fatigue for days after, but otherwise almost everyone that has been reanimated have recovered well.
The longest reanimation I have witnessed took nine days. Dad and Lawrence lost her in the end.
Karen was coming close to ending her reanimation when suddenly her heart gave way. Turns out she had an unknown underlying heart condition. She may not have known about it either.
She was 45 as a human, but had been a vampire for over sixty years. Back then, the medical profession was less precise, so Karen could never have guessed that her human heart would not be strong enough to handle the stress of reanimation.
It was sad knowing she would never know she died as a human, but to be able to die was one reason she volunteered, so she won even though she lost.
Lawrence had met Karen while he was out feeding one night behind the old institution. When I say ‘behind the old institution’ I mean he was miles away hunting wild animals in the forest when he met her. She too was hunting.
They talked for hours. Karen had been a loner as a human, so as a vampire she found it best to keep her distance from both people and other vampires.
She was the perfect candidate. Lawrence had told Karen what they’d been able to achieve and even though they had experienced both failure and success with the rats, she agreed to be the first human volunteer.
Karen had returned to the institution with Lawrence, where Dad and I met her. I sat and listened as Dad and Lawrence explained the whole procedure to her. There was nothing they could say to deter her, even though they laid out all the risks and options. It was her decision and she wanted in.
I haven’t yet met a vampire who hasn’t wanted to return to the human state.
Even Lawrence has said that once their work is refined and Dad doesn’t need him to help restrain the test animals and vampires anymore, he too will reanimate.
They have now successfully changed hundreds of rats, nearly as many feral cats and six human vampires back to their natural form. Growing up watching animals become vampires, then observing them as the reanimation process returns them to their natural form, has shown me that things aren’t always what they seem.
I’m not scared of death, which might seem weird, but after watching the relief in a vampire’s eyes when they find out that they too will be able to one day die makes me appreciate the circle of life for what it is and how it’s meant to be. I’ve grown up spending my spare time hanging out in an abandoned mental institution with my father and his best pal, who is a vampire, watching and helping them as they do their best to understand this undefinable disease.
My life is weird. I’ve come to accept that.
My father’s next quest will be to discover those cells which strengthen the vampire and use them to help cure diseases and degenerative disorders in humans, but without the adverse vamp side effects obviously.