Weirdly Normal – Sunburn (Rest of the Story)

This is the rest of the story. Click here for the beginning

“Jake! Would you please ask Stan to let me up?” asked Vincent.

“I’d like to find out why he feels it necessary to pin you down first,” said Jake.  “This isn’t like Stan at all.”

“I’ll tell you why,” said Vincent.  “For some reason Stan seems to have decided that he’s responsible for me!  That he has to keep me safe! I’m more than old enough to make my own decisions.  I’d been old enough to do so for a hundred years before either of you were even drawing your first breaths.”

“I’m holding him down because he’s trying to kill himself!” said Stan, his voice back to its normal gentle level.

“I’m doing nothing of the sort! I simply want… No, I simply need to feel the sun’s warmth again.  I’ve spent over a century never getting to see it.  I just want to take a walk in the sunshine.”

“Vincent,” said Jake.  “That is killing yourself!”

“No it is not!  I might die as a side-effect, but I wouldn’t be doing it to kill myself.  Do you have any idea what it’s like to go for over a century without seeing the sun, without feeling its warmth?

“It’s not even as if I got to treasure my last time in the sun, to make memories to sustain me.  One day I was perfectly normal, followed by a few blank days, then I woke up and found I was a vampire.  That was it.  No more sun for me.  Well I’ve had enough of it.  I need to feel the sun again.”

Jake pondered that for a few seconds before answering.

“Vincent, you’re right – I really can’t imagine what it’s like for you.  But can’t we at least talk about it for a little while.”

“There’s nothing to talk about! I’ve made my mind up!”

“Slow down.  You want to feel the sun.  I get that.  Let’s see if we can find a way to do that without you ending up as a pile of ash on the pavement.”

“I don’t see how that’s possible, but I suppose we can quickly consider the options in case I’ve missed something.  Then I’ll go ahead with the plan anyway.”

“That’s something at least!  Do we have your word that you won’t try to leave the house, or in any other way allow sunlight to reach you, for at least an hour?”

Vincent paused for a time, then nodded.

“You have my word.  I will not endanger myself or try to allow sunlight to hit me, even accidentally, for one hour from now.”

Jake winced at that.  He hadn’t thought through his wording carefully enough, when dealing with a lawyer that was a bad move.  He’d imagined the hour would start… well… later, when he’d had a chance to put his thoughts in order.  Even if just in a few minutes.  Now the clock was ticking.

Still, maybe Vincent being so quick to pounce on that was actually a good sign his mind wasn’t completely gone.  Or maybe it wasn’t.

“You can let him up, Stan,” said Jake.  “You know Vincent won’t break his word.”

Stan nodded, then slowly eased himself off his friend.  From the way he moved it was clear he’d taken several blows to his body, vampire blows which would have an awful lot of force behind them and most likely had broken a few ribs.  Yet Stan had stuck with what he was doing, determined to keep his friend safe.

“All right, I think we all need a drink!” said Jake.

“As long as it’s just alcohol,” said Stan.  “We’ve got enough problems already without you hitting one of your potions!”

“Fine!  I’ve got some brandy in the dining room.  Let’s go pour some… and try and sort all this out.”

* * *

Jake sloshed his fifth drink around in its glass, shaking his head.  Forty minutes they’d been talking now.  It hadn’t been productive.

“All right,” he said with a sigh.  “So we don’t have a solution yet.  Let’s check what we ruled out.  First, a radiation suit.”

“Totally defeats the object,” said Vincent.  “I might as well stay indoors!”

“A heat lamp to simulate the feeling.”

“Pointless again.  I might just as well sit on a radiator.”

“Virtual reality.”

“Utterly pointless.  I wouldn’t feel the sun on my skin.  I’d just get frustrated.”

“We could try hypnotism,” said Stan.

Jake smiled slightly and shook his head before speaking.

“I don’t think you’re going to be able to fool Vincent into believing he’s been out in the sun!”

“No, but how about hypnotic regression?  Taking Vincent back to the days he was able to enjoy the sun.  Letting him experience those memories, live those days again.”

Vincent shook his head.

“That’s actually quite a good idea,” he said.  “But it won’t work.  I’m a vampire.  We are masters of hypnotism, but we are also completely immune to it ourselves.  It doesn’t work on us even if we want it to.”

“Maybe very high factor sunblock then,” said Stan.

“That won’t work.  I know a vampire who tried it.  Well, I knew one.  You can’t possibly cover every part of your body, and the sunblock didn’t give enough protection anyway.”

“Maybe we could try magic?”

“We’d just hit the same problem,” said Vincent.  “The magic would either have to change me completely, which is damn hard when dealing with a vampire, or it would block the sun from reaching me which defeats the object again.  It’s hopeless.  There aren’t any solutions.  I do appreciate your efforts, Stan.  I really do.  And I’m sorry.  But my mind is made up.  I will go out in the sun.  There’s just no other way.”

“Well…” Said Jake, drawing the word out and reluctant to continue.  This was something he really didn’t want to admit to Vincent.

“What?” asked Stan.  “Come on Jake, this is Vincent’s life on the line here.”

Stan was right.  Their friend’s life was at stake… though would Vincent still consider them friends after this revelation?  Jake really didn’t know.

“There might be one other option,” Jake said reluctantly.  “But you’re not going to be happy about it, Vincent!”

“What do you mean?  What other option?”

“I’ve developed a potion which could help… possibly.”

“Developed?  How can you possibly have developed something to work on a vampire?”

Jake winced.

“The thing is,” he said, shuffling from one foot to the other.  “I’ve been doing some experimenting on samples.”

“Samples?” asked Vincent.  “What do you mean samples?”

“Well, vampire samples.”

Vincent’s eyes suddenly blazed red.

“Where the hell have you got vampire samples from? Were they taken from me somehow?”

“No!  I’d never do that, not without asking you first!  And I was only going to do that if my experiments looked promising.”

“If the samples didn’t come from me, then where are they from?”

“There’s… there is… well, there’s a few vampires who were willing to provide samples to me.  I made a deal with them.”

“But why on earth would they provide you with samples?”

“In return for… for payment.”

“Jake, I’m a lawyer.  You’re not going to get away with half answers.  What sort of payment?”

“All right… with blood.  Human blood.  I came across a few vampires who are managing to resist attacking people, but just can’t get rid of the urge for blood.  I stumbled across them and found they were being horribly taken advantage of, doing almost anything for the chance of blood without having to attack someone.  So I arranged for a small but steady supply of blood for them.  It stops them going off the deep end but also means no one can take advantage of them.”

“Except you!”

“It’s not like that! I’ve always given them the blood for free!  Don’t worry, it’s all ethically sourced.  But after a while we got talking and all three of them told me they want to give up the blood.  Well, after some time and more discussions I offered to do some experiments to figure out why they craved the blood.  After a while I started working on some other projects as well.  Ones to help you.”

“To help me?” Vincent’s voice was suspicious.  “You know I don’t succumb to the desire for blood.”

“I know! But there are things you struggle with.  Funnily enough the main thing I’ve been looking into was exactly this… letting you survive in sunlight.  I didn’t realise you had this yearning to feel the sun again, even if it would kill you, but there was more to it than that.  Let’s be honest, having to hide in the boot of my car to avoid the sun was hardly a high point of this year for you.  Then there’s other things you miss out on.  Hell, one thing I was thinking about was you being able to go skiing in the daytime!”

Vincent just sat and stared at Jake for some time.  Long enough that Jake found himself struggling to meet his friend’s gaze and almost holding his breath.  Finally Vincent shook his head and a slight smile appeared on his face.  Jake finally allowed himself to breathe properly again.

“Jake,” said Vincent.  “I’m not sure I approve of your methods.  But I do appreciate your intentions.”

“The treatment,” said Stan.  “Did it work?  Do you have a way of letting Vincent feel the sun without dying?”

“Yes… and no,” said Jake.  “Or rather yes then no.”

“What does that mean?”

“It’s down to the nature of vampirism.  It’s adaptive.  It’s part of what makes vampires so difficult to kill, but it also makes it difficult to find anything which will affect them for long.  So yes, I have managed to come up with a potion that will allow a vampire to be safe in the sun.  But only for a very limited time.  About two hours.  Maybe a little longer, maybe a little less.  Then they have to get back into the safety of darkness or… well, you know.”

“But they can take it again and do the same another time?”

“No.  I told you, vampirism adapts.  Once it’s done that it doesn’t go back.  This is a one time deal.  After that the potion doesn’t ever work again.  I wish that wasn’t the case, but it does work the first time.  For around two hours.”

Jake and Stan both turned to Vincent to judge his reaction.  Their friend stood very still for a time, then he smiled.

“An hour would be more than enough.  Two would be wonderful.  I’ll know it will be my last chance to feel the sun so I will be sure to savour every moment, to commit the feelings to memory for good.  Thank you Jake.  Your potion will give me exactly what I need.  If you could bring it out now we can get started.”

“Oh no you don’t!” said Stan.  “If you’ve only got one shot at this then we’re going to do it right!  If you’re only going to get one experience of being in the sun again then we’re going all out.  The beach.  A barbecue.  Paddling in the… well, alright Vincent, looking at the sea in your case.  We’ll get some friends along and make it a proper saying goodbye to the sun party.”

“That’s really not necessary,” said Vincent.  “I’ll be happy just standing outside right here…”

He was too late.  Stan already had his phone out and was chattering with the first of what would be many of their friends.  Jake chuckled and clapped Vincent on the shoulder.

“Well Vincent, it looks like you’re getting a party.  Whether you want one or not!”

* * *

Vincent sat on the fold-up chair, smiling at the disorganised chaos on the beach around him.  It seemed like almost every one of his friends had turned out for the impromptu party.

Stan and Jake were there, of course, with Jake busy cooking food on a portable gas barbecue he’d somehow laid his hands on.  But so many others had turned out despite having only a few hours notice.  Enough for an impromptu game of beach volleyball to be set up and still leave plenty of people queueing for Jake’s food, splashing in the sea, or just sitting around soaking up the sun.

Right then Vincent was one of the last group.  Jakes concoction had lived up to its promise.  While tentative at first, Vincent was now enjoying sitting in the sunlight.  It was strange.  In some ways it all felt incredibly familiar, the warmth pressing on his skin, the smile the bright daylight brought to his face.  At the same time it felt like an experience he hadn’t felt in a lifetime.  Which was pretty much the truth – it had been more than a hundred years.

He’d even been persuaded to remove his jacket and roll up his sleeves.  The suggestion, from Jake of course, that he put on a pair of Bermuda shorts and go without a top had been quelled with an icy look from Vincent.  He wouldn’t be seen dead, or indeed undead, in that apparel!

He was making sure to soak in every detail of the day, every nuance of the way the sun felt on his skin.  This would almost certainly be the last time he ever was ever able to tolerate being out in the sun, but at least this time he would remember it.  The near-photographic memory he’d gained when being turned into a vampire could be used to hold onto the feelings forevermore, and would allow him to replay the day in his mind on demand.

He wasn’t even sure how long he’d been sitting there.  Normally he had a very accurate sense of time but he was deliberately suppressing it.  He was determined to enjoy his experience to the full without worrying about time limits.  Jake was certain there would be enough warning that the potion was no longer effective for Vincent to get safely out of the sun before it could do any lasting damage.

Vincent sat there for a few more minutes, sipping on a glass of red wine and enjoying the bustle around him.  His friends sent him plenty of smiles and made the occasional comment, but mostly they left him to enjoy the experience.

“I think you need to check the barbecue, Jake,” Stan called from where he was soaking up the sun himself.  “You’re burning something!”

“Impossible! I’m an excellent cook and never burn anything! Besides, there’s nothing on the barbecue right now.”

“What?” asked Stan.  “But something is burning!”

“Oh damn!  It’s not the barbecue.  It’s Vincent! Sorry Vincent, but the potion is wearing off.  We need to get you out of the sun.  Quickly.”

Vincent closed his eyes, feeling the warmth soaking into his bones for just a little longer, then nodded.  He stood up, and walked as quickly as he was able to on the soft sand.  Within two minutes he and Jake were back at the specially adapted van another of their friends had laid on.  Vincent climbed into the back, where the windows were blacked out by thick double layered curtains covering glass that was painted black.  Jake climbed in behind him.

“Sorry, Vincent,” said Jake.  “I wish I could have given you longer.”

Vincent smiled back.

“Jake, my friend, no one else could have given me any time safely in the sun.  I will treasure these memories for the rest of my years!”

“I’m really pleased I could help.  Well, I guess I’d better help everyone pack up.”

“Nonsense! There’s no reason everyone else should stop having fun just because I had to leave the beach.  Besides, I’d quite like a little time to reflect on everything.”

“If you’re sure…”

“Absolutely.  And thank you again.”

“You’re more than welcome.  I much prefer you as you are rather than a pile of ash on the floor!”

Jake slipped through several layers of dark, heavy material into the front of the van without letting any hint of the sunlight through.  Vincent heard the door open and close.  Only then did he let out a deep sigh.

He appreciated the efforts of his friends, he really did.  The sensation of sitting in the warm sun had been amazing.  As had seeing all his friends out enjoying themselves in the daylight.

But… the beach! He had sand in his expensive shoes.  There was sand in his clothes.  Even in his hair!  It would take him days to feel completely clean again.  All in all, this was an experience he would treasure for the rest of his days… at the same time as being happy never to go through it again!

He sat down, brushing the sand off his shoes and clothes as well as he could, and found himself looking forward to getting back to his clean and above all sand-free home.  Then he could truly enjoy the memory of being in the sun.

A sudden shout of victory came from the beach.  Apparently someone had won the volleyball game.  Despite everything, especially the sand, Vincent settled back in his seat with a smile on his face.  Maybe it would be more than just the memory of the sun that he would be replying again.  And maybe visiting the beach had been a great idea… just this once.

And besides… he wasn’t exactly hard up.  There were always dry cleaners… or completely new sets of clothes which had never seen a grain of sand!  With that thought his smile grew wider, and he relaxed some more, continuing to listen to his friends partying on the beach… and not regretting for one moment that he could no longer join them.

The End

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