I am so tired.
I have existed for so long I do not know what year it is anymore. Instead darkness now rules my life.
Life. What is life? Does my existence constitute a life? I fear not. My life ended some one hundred and thirty-five years ago; at a time when I had taken my first breath. Now death is my constant companion while I live in death's eternal dominion. For I am neither dead nor alive, sharing an existence that few others have, and even fewer wish to possess.
"Come back to bed."
I look from my position by the window to the bed cast in shadow. My lover calls me and I respond. Slowly I walk toward her, knowing full well she is watching me.
"What bothers you?"
"Nothing. I cannot sleep." How do I tell her what festers in my heart? I crawl in beside her and snuggle up to her warmth.
"You are cold."
My skin is not the only thing cold. I had long since lost my desire to live. The only thing I lack is the courage to do something about it. "I do not mean to be." I place my arm over her side and pull her closer. "Maybe you can do something about it."
She turns awkwardly as I have her close to me. Finally she is facing me and I feel her breasts touch mine. Her lips are a hair's breadth away from my own. "What is wrong, my love?" She looks deeply into my eyes.
"Nothing. Why do you ask?" She does not know what I am and I am not about to tell her.
"Because you have been brooding all night."
"I am sorry, my sweet. I have other things on my mind."
"What things?" she perseveres with her questions.
How can I tell her that I am a bastard child of a hellish union? Am I worried that if she knows she will leave me? I have seen many lovers come and go, grow old and die while I move on. I know I am not eternal. I will not see my own old age for a few hundred years but it comes at a deadly price, and it is a price that I longer wish to pay.
"Never mind. This is a night for love, not for things that I cannot change."
"Can I help?"
If she only knew. My time approaches when I must once again face my baser instincts. It would do well for her to be far, far away. My mind is not my own and I must obey its will. "Tomorrow you must leave."
"Why? I thought..."
"My sweet one, never fear. It is only for a short while. I have something that I must do and would like you to be out of the city before I do it."
"What sort of thing?" She is persistent.
"I cannot tell you."
"Cannot or will not?"
"Both, my love." I kiss her gently on the neck and her pulse point beats against my lips. So close. I am so close to taking what I want. But I am in control for now. What would she think of me if she is the one to be the victim of my desire?
"Hrrmph!" She is angry with me, and rightly so. If a woman refused to let me into her personal life, especially after professing eternal love for her, I would be irritated, but I know this is a secret that has to stay my own.
"It is not important. Is not what we have enough?"
"You do not trust me."
"It is not a matter of trust, my dear."
"Then why will you not tell me?"
"It is for your own safety."
She sits up in bed. "Why? Are you an agent for a foreign country?"
"Yes." If this little lie will appease her then I am willing to say it.
"Are you on a secret mission?"
"What is it?"
I look at her sternly. "If I tell you, it will not be a secret." My hand moves to distract her. "Now..."
"But I will not tell."
"It is far too dangerous. For you and for me."
"Enough!" The moment has flown. I sit up and perch on the edge of the bed and run my hand through my hair.
"Ambra," she whispers it in a way she knows will attract my attention. Few had said my name quite like she does. The dark smokiness of her voice grabs something primal in me. Tonight is no different, except that the urge is stronger.
I look at her lying on the bed in her full naked splendor. She wants me to take her and I wish the same, but something holds me back. My gaze is drawn to her neck and the pulse that resides so close to the surface. My head pounds until it is in time with her heartbeat. It is too soon...
"You have to leave. Now!" I say urgently, but she looks at me with disbelief. "If you want to live you will leave now and do not come back!" She sits up and crosses her arms.
I feel the urge creep up on me like a sickness. The pounding becomes a roar. My hands grab the bed sheets tightly and I yell. "Jacqueline, leave or die!" I stare into her eyes until the truth is revealed. She backs away but does not leave. I have precious moments before my body is not my own. I grab her wrists to pull her from the bed.
"Please! Please! Don't kill me!"
It is the last thing I want to do, but will she allow my final wish? "Goooooo," I howl.
Jacqueline scrambles toward the door, momentarily stopping to pick up her clothes. The door slams shut and I am left alone. I throw myself onto the bed and curl up in a ball. Every time I try to fight it but she is too strong for me. My time has come again...
You can never escape me. Why do you fight?
"Because I do not want to be like you."
It is your heritage. I am as much a part of you as you are a part of me.
"I deny you!" I scramble for a high place where she cannot reach me, but I know it is a lie. At best, it delays the inevitable. I am who I am no matter how much I try to change it.
She laughs in my head. One day all of this will be but a memory.
"A nightmare," I murmur. "You are nothing but a horrifying nightmare."
And soon to be real. You are coming of age and you will no longer have to pose as a weak human.
"I want my humanity! I am human!" It is a valiant plea on my part. Why did I have to be born?
You knew this day would come. You are finally one of us.
I had known I was born to a human mother and a half-vampire father. I was born into the veiled half-life of a cross-breed. A quarter of me belonged to the vampires. I had hoped that my human side would be in control, but slowly the other side has gained more and more of me.
You put up a valiant fight, but now you must succumb, like all those before you.
I feel the words eating away at my resolve. "Nnnooooo!!!!" I act on instinct and leap up from the bed. I know not where to go so choose none, instead allowing common sense to guide me. I run. It takes only a few steps until my run is ended, and I leap forward. I do not feel the glass shredding my skin, nor the rushing air. As I hit the ground I take one final look as my life slowly bleeds away. My eyes become heavy and I finally smile, for once, about something positive in my life.
* * *
I open my eyes. Am I in hell?
"Hello." The sweet, angelic voice scares me for a moment, before a hand comes to cup my face. "You were lucky to survive."
But I do not want to survive. How can I call it 'luck'? "Where...," my voice is harsh and cracked, "... where am I?"
"They thought you were dead."
I move my body and feel the pain.
"Do not move. You are injured." The hand that cupped my face now lifts away one of the bandages around my arm. "You are a quick healer." There is no fear in that statement.
"It must be a family trait." I shift my head a little more to see who the voice belongs to. "Am I in heaven?" I ask, for my comforter has the face of an angel.
"Heaven? Hardly." She seems amused by my question. "Here." She moves a cup to my lips and dribbles a drop or two into my mouth. "They will think you are possessed by an evil spirit."
I cough harshly and the pain wells up inside me. Is this an idle comment or does she know? "Why?"
"Because you lived. You should be dead after that fall."
"I know. How does God decide who lives and who dies?" I had never been a believer in God. Perhaps it is because of my heritage that I say such a thing.
"God helps the righteous." She seems to hold that conviction because I can see it in her pale, pale eyes.
Me? Righteous? I am the Devil. "I am not worthy of that name," I say.
"And yet you live. This is His divine touch." She lifts the bandages and then removes some of them. "Are you an angel?"
I laugh. "No, I am anything but."
"Do not mock His purpose."
"I apologize, dear lady. I do not mean to ridicule your beliefs." I should be uncomfortable around someone who holds God in such high regard, but I do not. I wonder why? "Where am I?"
"You are near the cemetery. My father is the caretaker."
The cemetery. This is where I should have been a long time ago. Is this a sign that my time is near? "He is a lucky man to have such a caring daughter." She smiles at me and I freeze. The smile lights up her face like a shining beacon for her beloved God.
Tentatively I move and it is then that I notice dirt falling from my body. I glance at the girl and she looks away. "What is this?"
She once again stares at me and I feel the heat of her gaze. "They buried you. I noticed that you still lived, but if I had said something they would have killed you as a heretic."
She is right. To have survived death meant instant accusations and ultimately a death more horrendous than the one I had survived. "You should have left me there."
That is an answer I did not expect. "Then why? You have marked me as the Devil."
"I could not, in all good conscience, leave you there knowing you were alive."
"I will have to leave this place." Why am I trying to justify my life when I had only the day before asked for death?
"This is the best place for you now." She continues to check the bandages. Her hand caresses my skin and I feel the warmth. She has the touch of a healer.
"It will put you in danger."
"I am safe. Do not worry."
But I do worry. This woman has extended her hand in comfort and my very presence is a danger to her. I rise from the bed.
"What are you doing?" She sounds anxious.
"I will not stay." Her hand touches my arm and I look into her eyes. There is something in them that mesmerizes me and I feel the urge to remain. "Maybe I will stay." She relaxes with the words.
"So," she lets the word stand alone while she moves to the chair next to the bed. "Tell me your story."
"There is no story to tell." Yet I feel the urge to tell her everything.
"Of course there is a story to tell otherwise you would not be in my care."
Her care? It is a strange turn of phrase to use, and I study her to find the truth. "I did not know that I needed caring."
"Everyone needs caring at some point in their lives. It is God's healing touch. It makes everything better."
Again she has that conviction of God's touch. I recline once more and close my eyes. "I am tired." I am tired of so many things in this life.
"Rest," she said, and the word sent me off to sleep.
* * *
I do not know for how long I slept, but I wake with her seated in the same position as when I closed my eyes.
"Ah," she murmurs. "Do you feel rested?"
I slowly move my limbs and the pain seems less. "You are a skilful healer."
"It is God's gift."
"I feel I am not worthy of this gift. I do not believe in God."
"And yet God remains, whether you believe or not." She smiles and touches my arm. She stands and goes to a trunk at the end of the bed. "Here." She opens the lid and pulls out a nightshirt to hand to me. "It seems you forgot your clothes."
"My apologies." I quickly pull the shirt over my head and drag the material down to cover my body.
"No apology needed. It seems your desire to hurt yourself overrode your need for clothes."
"Hurt myself?" I have not mentioned the circumstances of my fall.
Her eyebrow rises as she takes her seat next to me. "Now, you can tell me your story."
The words echo in my brain and repeat themselves. It is like she has some hold on my memory and is trying to pull it out. "I... I..." I fight the impulse but it is too strong.
"Tell me." The words are not forceful but seem to intensify the need to reveal all.
"My mother was human and my father... father... fa..."
"There is no judgment here."
"Father was... is a vampire. Well, half-vampire." I stop myself from saying more until I know her reaction.
"And...?" She appears to accept this news readily, which surprises me. I know that such knowledge would be met with fear and damnation.
"I am a quarter-vampire. My life is a living hell. I cannot fight it anymore."
"Hell is what you make it."
"If I could change it, I would."
"And what is your hell?"
"Once every ten years I must give in to my vampire heritage. For a week I am a slave to my other-worldly desires. People die." I hang my head in shame.
"And this began when you were a child?"
"I had a normal childhood. It was not until I reached the age of fifteen that it changed. Now ten years is like one year to me. That is why I know that I will die some time."
"Where are your parents now?"
"My mother is dead, of course. I do not know where my father is. He left when she died. No doubt he is with them
"You do not know that."
"He has nowhere else to go. He did not stay with me, so he went to them."
"And you did not."
"I do not wish to be one of them."
"Which is why you tried to kill yourself, and yet it saved you."
"I do not want to be saved! Do you not understand?" I rub my face with my hands. "No, you do not. No one understands. That is my dilemma."
"I am here to help you."
"You cannot help me. Did you ever think that I do not want your help? I want to die!" She tries to comfort me and I grab her arm hard. "Why did you have to meddle?"
"You would have lived whether I interceded or not. Here is some respite from your life."
"There is no, as you say, respite. I live with this every day, every SINGLE day. It is my curse."
"God does not see it that way."
"Well, your God knows little of me."
She slaps my face then instantly apologizes. She drops to her knees and prays. "My Lord, I sincerely apologize for my lack of restraint. I do not know what came over me."
"Get up. He will not answer you. Besides you should be apologizing to me, not to him."
"Do you know so little of your world? He guides my hand and I did something unspeakable."
"If he guides your hand, young lady, then it is He who struck me."
She hesitates because she knows I am right. Even though I do not believe, she cannot fault my logic.
"He would do no such thing. He is the Light."
"And yet it happened." I do not know why I am pleased with her confusion. "What is your name?"
"No, it is not right." She stands and paces. "He would not use me in such a way." She stops and her face tilts upward. Her eyes close and a heavenly smile crosses her lips. "Ahh, I see," she whispers.
"That may be difficult with your eyes closed." I chuckle and she opens her eyes and glares at me. It seems I have touched something within her.
"Come. You must eat." She moves over to the bed and helps me to rise. She slides her arm around my waist and my face is inches from her neck.
I try not to look but I cannot help myself. The pulse in her neck beats constantly and I feel the beginning of the slow pounding in my head. "I have to leave."
"You cannot leave."
"I do not want to hurt you. I have to leave."
"I can help you." Her words resemble a low moan.
"It has begun. If you do not leave I will kill you." My words repeat themselves in my head. I feel light-headed, as if my mind is outside my body. My eyes fixate on her neck and the veritable feast that awaits me just under the surface of her skin.
"What do you feel?"
"Hunger. Power. Sex." I stumble over the words that feel heavy in my mouth.
"Yes, as powerful as an orgasm." I see her blush but I cannot help but tell the truth.
"Is that from the power or the sex?"
"Let me show you." My voice drops and takes on a malevolent hue.
"Is this what you have me do?"
"Yes," I growl.
"I was not talking to you." Her eyes tilt upward. "Is this your wish?"
"He will not stop me." My hand encircles her neck and I squeeze. It is already too late for her to escape. I feel the beast clawing up inside me and she will not be assuaged until the girl is dead. "I warned you, now you must pay." I move closer and sniff the air. It is a heady mixture of blood, fear and excitement. I lick her neck at the point of her pulse and smile. "See? He has not struck me down."
She twists in my grasp and looks into my eyes. I know what she will see there but she shows no fear. In fact, she is angered by my taunting of her God. "He has plans for you," she says with barely a whisper.
"Plans? Hah!" I swoop in and kiss her lips, biting down hard just before I withdraw. She lips are painted with her blood and my tongue flickers out to wipe my lips. Her blood is nirvana to me and I want more. I have finally crossed the line where there is no going back. I tilt her head so that her neck is exposed to me.
"Wait!" she yells. I barely hear her over the deafening sound in my head. I do not know why, but I release my hand around her neck.
She steps away and moves to the table. With one quick flick of a knife she opens up a vein in her wrist and allows the blood to flow into a bowl.
My tongue is restless, already begging for the feel of that same blood in my mouth. My gaze is so intent on watching the liquid accumulate that I do not notice she has bandaged her wrist to cut off the flow. "Drink your fill," she says then steps away.
But I do not hear her. My whole being is centered on the bowl and its contents. Like a dying woman crawling to an oasis I move, my hands extending in front of me to accept the sacrifice. I grab the bowl and lift it to my lips. I barely hear her muttering the Lord's Prayer beside me as I finish the blood and swipe my hand over my mouth. Her blood has washed through me and I feel every inch of its warmth as it moves down my arms and legs.
Strangely, I feel sated. That has not happened before. The beast is not happy until all the blood is gone. I turn to face her and look her up and down. "What have you done to me?" My voice is harsh, guttural... primal.
"He has asked for a sacrifice and I have given. Now it is your turn."
"My... turn?" I laugh loudly. "Me?"
"Lie down," she commands.
"Lie with me," I demand.
"No. This is your fight." She pushes me gently and I am unable to stop her. My limbs are weak and my body feels heavy. I slump to the bed and she lifts my legs so I am fully reclined.
"What bewitchment is this?" Her visage blurs and I feel I am losing the fight to stay conscious. "Wha.... ???!?"
* * *
Darkness. This is a place I thought I would always come to; a place that resides in the depths of my soul. "Where am I?" I fear that I am alone with the darkness and the silence. While I am concerned about my predicament I also know that this is where I belong.
Why did you not kill her?
I know that voice. It is my torment.
"She made the sacrifice and I was satiated."
You must take all.
"I am not your servant!" But I know better. I am indeed her servant, but while I still breathe I will fight.
But you are. You must take all.
"I refuse you!"
She laughs in my head.
"I would rather die than serve you one more day."
I will not allow you to seek peace. Your future is already written by your past.
"That is his heritage, not mine. I did not ask to be born like this."
And yet you are. You must accept the life that has been given to you.
"Why must I accept what you say? I am my own woman."
Your resistance is admirable, but it is now time to obey your bloodline.
I am not sure where my strength has come from, but I feel I can withstand the call. Has she done this? Has her blood saved mine? "No."
She laughs again at my impudence. You cannot win
But I have a smile of my own. "I think I can... with her help."
She must die.
"No." I stand my ground but I feel the urge to take her rise up in me. "No!" I grasp onto that word as my lifeline.
Then I will do what you cannot.
I feel myself move, but I cannot see because I am still in darkness. "I cannot help you, young lady!" I cry. My hands rise to seek out her flesh. I am glad that I cannot see what is about to happen. I touch her skin and recoil in pain. "Arrgghh! You will die for that!" My voice has taken on the timbre of my demon. My only hope is that this woman realizes it is not me seeking her death.
"Be gone!" Her voice is strong and clear and I feel the beast draw back. "By God's blessing, this child is no longer yours!"
I wish it was that easy to solve my predicament. "She will not give up easily." Soft lips brush my own and the urge leaves me. I open my eyes and see her face so close to mine. "Why did you do that?"
"It cannot fight against compassion."
"I beg to differ, miss. She does not care about your compassion."
"She does when it is God's."
God. "You have a lot of faith in your God."
"He is everything." Her eyes shine brightly for love for her God.
"I must go before she returns." I step away and walk toward the door.
"She will not return."
"Of course she will return. She always does."
"This time, she will not return."
"So, it is only a matter of time before she seeks me out again." I sigh heavily. It was only a small respite, not a solution.
"I will find you when you need me."
"You will... find... I think not. You cannot possibly know where I will be."
"He will show me."
I shake my head. This woman seems a bit addled in the head. "Fine. Good day to you, miss, and thank you for your assistance."
"You may stay longer if you wish."
"No. I think it is safer for you if I do not."
"You have no faith."
"I thought I had already said that."
"You will change your mind."
"I doubt it. I am who... or what... I am. Nothing will change that."
"We will see."
I ask one final question before I take my leave. "What is your name?"
She smiles at me enigmatically. "Angel."