I should be running, maybe even screaming in terror right now. I mean, a normal person probably would be, right?
But what was I doing? I was still sitting there, on a dirty New Orleans sidewalk, staring into a dark alley, oblivious to everything but the scene playing out before me.
The guy I had kicked in the balls had apparently recovered enough to go for his dropped gun at the same time I’d been thrown out of the way – but instead of reaching his weapon, he now found himself dangling in the air, held high by his throat. I heard the squeak of his shoes as they frantically scraped against the ground, and my eyes searched the shadows in front of him, trying to figure out what the hell was happening.
As if on cue, another man stepped from the darkness, his hand wrapped around my attacker’s throat. All I could really make out was long, nearly white hair, shining in the moonlight…one blink of my eyes, and the scene changed: And now it appeared that the two were embracing.
Except, that wasn’t quite right…
People who embrace don’t usually struggle; they don’t swing their fists about wildly, and they don’t make the weird gurgling noises I was hearing – not a scream, but a frantic, almost guttural choking sound – which was exactly what one of them was doing… while the other…the other had his face buried in my assailant’s neck.
I was once again frozen in place, as my brain tried to make sense of what I was seeing but was having issues with logical explanations. I mean, it looked like he was biting him, but…come on…really?
And then the man from the shadows looked up.
His pale hair fell around him, and I could see clearly that his teeth – his freaking teeth – were, in fact, deeply embedded in someone’s throat; but it didn’t matter once his eyes found mine and our gazes locked.
Violet eyes shone in the moonlight, almost iridescent; and I could not make myself look away. I knew in that moment that I would never forget those eyes, and the way he stared at me. I realized instantly that it was him who I had sensed earlier, as the same feeling washed over me now as I’d had in Jackson Square when I thought I was being watched.
He stared. I stared.
After a moment, he pulled away from the now unmoving man in his arms, and dropped him unceremoniously to the ground, and still we stared at each other. I felt myself being pulled to my feet, and dimly registered the fact that it was Ben who was lifting me up – somehow, they’d found me – but I never took my eyes from the figure standing in that alley. I could hear frantic voices surrounding me, but I shut them out; my entire being focused on him.
His face was still mostly hidden in shadow, but I saw him bring a finger to his lips, as if to say “shh”, and in a movement too fast for my eyes to follow, he was gone. I wrenched myself free from Ben’s grasp, lurching forward a few steps into the alley, my eyes searching everywhere – left, right, up – but he wasn’t there.
I spun around, probably looking a bit crazed. “Where did he go?!”
“Where did who go?” I think it was Ben who answered, but in my current state, I couldn’t be sure. My eyes continuously searched the dark, even looking up to the rooflines of the buildings around us.
I was manic – people don’t just disappear! But people also don’t go around biting other people’s necks! They don’t have fangs! They don’t have eerie purple eyes!
Am I crazy? I could be crazy…maybe I imagined him?
You’re not crazy. You know what you saw.
I was pulled from my thoughts when Danni grabbed me and began to shake me, trying to bring me back, to get my attention. “Hey! Shelly! Look at me – hey!” She gripped my shoulder tightly, and placed her hand on my cheek, forcing me to look at her, to see her. “I need you to focus, okay? I need you to tell me what happened.”
“I…I don’t…,” I couldn’t seem to make my vocal cords work properly. Or maybe, my brain was on overdrive and I just didn’t know where to start. I could feel the adrenaline that had been fueling me wearing off, and my body began to shake, as David pushed past, his eyes on the ground behind me.
I turned my head at his breathless words, to see him staring at the crumpled bodies that lay a few feet away. The shaking intensified, my legs turning to mush. I grabbed hold of Danni’s arms, as her eyes widened in fear, just as mine rolled into the back of my head, and everything went black.
I awoke with my head in Danni’s lap. Apparently, I’d taken her with me when I fell. I felt her fingers brushing the hair from my forehead, as I slowly opened my eyes to the faces hovering over me.
“Hey – hey, she’s waking up!” I heard Michael’s voice to my right, and realized he was squatting beside me. He glanced around at the others, before his eyes came back to my face; his expression worried.
For a millisecond, I was confused. Then reality hit me like ice water to the face and I groaned. I lifted my head a bit, and saw Ross, sitting at my feet, his dark eyes staring at me, nervously; Ben stood off to the left, his arms crossed over his chest; his large frame blocked my view into the alley, for which I was grateful. David was kneeling down next to Danni, his eyes darting from her, to me, to darkness behind Ben.
I could tell a crowd had gathered, most likely from the bar across the street; I could hear the loud din of voices all around me, and I heard the wailing of sirens in the distance, and the sound of hard running coming towards us.
I pulled myself to a sitting position, just as the dam broke and I found myself bombarded with questions, all coming at me so fast, it was hard to keep up.
“Are you ok?”
“Where did you go?”
“Who are those dudes in the alley?”
“Did they hurt you?”
“Can you talk?”
Before I could even begin to formulate an answer to anything, A loud booming voice I didn’t recognize began ordering the crowd back, and then the police were there – one pushing the people back, one bending down to me, as another made their way into the alley.
The crackling static of radios, the buzzing noise of the crowd, the sound of so many footsteps on pavement, the sirens sounding from somewhere behind me – it was all suddenly so loud it took over my senses; blocking out everything until there was just a raging white noise in my head, and I couldn’t separate one thing from another.
I pressed my hands to my ears, trying to shut out the overwhelming sound, but it didn’t help. A light suddenly illuminated the alleyway, and I glimpsed a crumpled body between the legs that were running back and forth.
Oh, God…he was wearing a Hornets Jersey…dark jeans…and white tennis shoes…
He was lying in a heap, exactly where I’d left him; ankles crossed, knees bent. I was thankful that I couldn’t see his face from this vantage. I squeezed my eyes shut and put my head between my knees. I tried to control my breathing; I tried not to throw up.
I killed him…I killed somebody…
Was it self-defense? Yes. Did he deserve it? Maybe.
I’m a murderer.
No! I didn’t have a choice – it was him, or me! Right?
With my head still down, I opened my eyes and focused on the first thing I noticed, which was the stitching on the back of my shoe.
Focus; drown out everything else. Don’t look towards the alley.
There is no crowd, there are no questions, there are no sirens.
Just look at the stitches on your shoe…and the scuff mark on the side…and the crack in the pavement…
Don’t forget to breathe…
As I listened to myself, the roar in my head began to fade until it was manageable. That’s when I realized that the bodies in the alley weren’t my only problem – because I was only responsible for one of them – HE was responsible for the other.
And I could still feel him.
It was clear as day to me now that the uneasiness I had felt originally, and the dread that had come over me just before I’d been attacked were two entirely different things. The dread was my inherent warning system letting me know something was about to go down, but the feeling of being watched that had been shadowing me all night – that was him…that was the …vampire.
God, it sounded crazy, but that’s what he was. I knew it. But, how? Vampires weren’t supposed to be real…right?
He looked hella real to me…
My memories on the next few hours are fuzzy, at best. My brain just kind of checked out for a little while. I suppose that’s my way of handling traumatic situations. I know the police attempted to interrogate me at least twice; once, there on the street, and again at the hospital. However, I have no idea how I even got to the hospital.
There were two detective’s that came – a man and a woman. The man stood off to the side, watching me like I was some kind of freak on display, and I truly remember very little else about him. I do remember the woman’s voice, though, as she questioned me – a southern drawl with a hint of cajun – but for the life of me, I can’t remember her name or her face, really; only that she had coffee and cream colored skin and smelled of mint.
I vaguely remember a slight, balding man in scrubs – the doctor – telling them something about Post-Traumatic-Shock.
I remember them taking my dirty and bloody clothes and handing me a hospital gown to wear. I remember feeling a sting in my left arm, but I don’t recall seeing who gave me the shot.
And I remember laying there, on an uncomfortable E.R. bed, the light too bright above me, the smell of rubbing alcohol stinging my nose, as the sedatives began to kick in…and feeling him.
I had been examining that sensation over and over in my head, from every angle, thinking back to the moment I had first felt it – standing in front of that painting, feeling watched – up until the alley, and now. It was something I’d never really felt before. It didn’t feel malicious, it didn’t feel evil; it simply felt…different. It was hard to explain, to describe…it was something…other.
And it was intrinsically him.
Weird… I thought, as I drifted into unconsciousness.
I awoke to darkness sometime later. I sat bolt upright, disoriented and confused; my heart racing and my breathing heavy.And dammit, my head was killing me.It took a few minutes to realize that I was back at Michael’s apartment; this was his bedroom. I was laying on top of his comforter, a throw blanket wound around my legs. I kicked it off, as I sat up and swung my feet to the floor. The movement only intensified the pain in my head, and I stumbled through the dark towards his bathroom.The light was blinding when I hit the switch, and for a moment I wanted to gouge my eyes out; but I figured counting to ten and slowly cracking them open was the better option. I squinted as I searched the counter around Michael’s sink, finally spying what I was looking for. I popped the top off the tiny bottle of aspirin and downed two of them with some water from the tap.I leaned heavily against the wall next to me, as I willed my head to stop hurting. I
The trip home that next afternoon seemed to take entirely too long. It was 3 hours back to Natchez, and I was ready to bang my head against the dash by the time David turned down my driveway.Danni and Ben kept sneaking worried glances at me when they thought I wasn’t paying attention; Ross slept; and despite David’s valiant effort at lighthearted conversation, you could cut the tension with a knife. They all looked at me differently; it was subtle, but there was definitely a change…then, again, maybe I was just imagining it. Either way, I was more than ready to be home.Until I actually got home, and it dawned on me that I was going to have to explain all this to my parents. No way were they not going to notice my bruised face, or the fact that I wasn’t wearing the same clothes I left in.I did my best to finger-comb my messy hair, my stomach beginning to churn. I was getting sick and tired of rehashing everything over and over again. M
A week went by, during which all of our parents couldn’t get enough of letting each of us know how angry they were that none of us had thought to pick up a phone after my attack. They were right – they deserved to know that their kids had been involved in something so traumatic. Even if we all were of the mind that we had done them a favor by not worrying them needlessly, when there was nothing they could have done.But, you know…parents.I called my boss and told her what happened and that I would not be coming in for my shifts that week – I worked as a cashier at a convenience store and interacting with the public, as I let my bruised body and mind heal, was not at the top of my list of priorities.I heard from the detectives in New Orleans, confirming that they had ruled my case self-defense and considered my part finished. I figured that was pretty fast for an investigation to wrap up, but I didn’t question it; just grateful it
My thoughts were all over the place Saturday. I’d barely slept after I’d gotten home. All I could think about was him – Xander – and his promise to come to me again.I was nervous. I was excited.What did I want to ask?I guess I should start with the things I know about vampires, or think I know. I’ve read Dracula; huge fan of The Lost Boys; big into Buffy the Vampire Slayer – but those were all pop-culture references, and so far, none of that seemed true: Xander didn’t wear a cape, he hadn’t turned into a bat that I’d seen, and his face didn’t get all bumpy when he bit someone.What about folklore? Would a stake through the heart kill him? Did he hate garlic and fear churches? I went through my bookshelves, pulling out anything to do with legends and folklore – but that didn’t get me anywhere, either. Xander didn’t appear to be anything like the tales described; he wa