I hadn't told Chase I’m a vampire yet and, with luck, he won’t figure it out for a long time. We’ve been going out together for a year and been taking it really slow. I told him I had intimacy problems. The truth is, I’m afraid. My stomach tied up in knots just thinking about it and I took a moment to calm myself, filling my lungs with deep breaths once more, only for different reasons, obviously. I really liked Chase and I didn't want to ruin it by confusing it with the cheap thrill I got with a kill. An image popped into my head of Chase on my couch, pale, not breathing, blood pooling out from a wound. His eyes would stare back in that manner only a dead person can affect. I had to admit that, on more than one occasion, I pulled away because I was afraid I’d hurt him. So maybe I really DID have intimacy issues, just not normal ones.
To explain away obvious problems that might arise, I told him I had XP. I told everyone in my development that lie. When I turned, I moved to a new community, a new city, a new everything. Better safe than sorry, right? I moved back to my childhood home of Southern New Jersey, home of the Jersey Devil if you believe in that sort of stuff. Strangely, I don’t. I know, I'm a bit of a devil myself, right? And it’s funny, but the idea of a devil making its way through the Pine Barrens of South Jersey just didn't seem likely. Then again, neither would an organized pack of werewolves taking up residence west of here near the Pennsylvania border or a clan of vampires in the Poconos.
For those less educated (or those that haven’t read the Dean Koontz books), XP is a rare genetic disorder with only about 2000 cases worldwide. Its full name is xeroderma pigmentosum and it's lethal. The lucky ones last until adulthood, most don’t, partially because it’s not caught fast enough. They can’t endure ANY UV light because their cells don’t have the mechanisms most people have in place to fix the damage (UV light has this unfortunate tendency to damage DNA and, though I know how it works, I'll probably make your eyes glaze over if I tried to explain it all). The disease is degenerative and sometimes starts with severe sunburns but sometimes the only first signs are increased amounts of freckles and skin that looks a lot like that of an old person. Their eyes will be extremely sensitive to light which may even lead to blindness. They usually develop cancers before the age of ten. Some poor kids even have neurological dysfunctions like deafness and mobility impairments. The sad thing is, it’s not just sunlight they can’t stand, most electric lighting is intolerable and they can’t use computers. Windows should be blacked out or covered to prevent even a little UV light from passing through. They also can’t be around tobacco smoke because they are more prone to ALL forms of cancer.
I went into my office and slid out the drawer that would usually have a computer keyboard. I unplugged my laptop from the power adapter and plopped it onto my lap. Chase would probably freak if he saw me with a computer but what he doesn’t know won’t bother him, right? Besides, I'd been telling him I only have a MILD case of XP to explain away the inconsistencies. Booting the computer by pressing the tiny round button with the circle and line through the top, I went beyond the IBM BIOS screen, onto the Windows Welcome screen and finally to my desktop, which was a respectful black. Black, gray, and purple set the tones of the task bar and everything else. Why Microsoft insisted on all those pansy-assed pastels was beyond me. I clicked the icon on my desktop that said “Camera1” underneath it. It brought me to a web camera I set up. I began a ritual I started almost a year ago, not long after I turned, and, with any luck, would continue until the day I die. The camera mounted on the roof and saw clear past the development to a tree-lined field. I couldn’t see a sunrise in person but, via the wonders of technology, I hadn’t missed a single one since I turned. As I watched, colors crept across the sky, a ball of fire gliding inch by inch across the horizon, a burning ember gilding the field before it. As I watched, a tear followed a familiar track down my cheek as it did most every day around this time. The cool liquid leaving a stiffness along its trail. Why I’d never acknowledged the pure beauty of this, I may never know, but I'll never forget it again. Too often, people don't see the beauty that's all around them until it's too late. I let out a quiet sigh in contemplation of that heavy truth.
When the sunrise finished and I'd wiped away every remnant of a tear, I exited out of Camera1 and moved to Camera2. Camera2 gave a direct view of the street. From the comfort of my office, I watched as people went about their petty lives, going to work, running errands, or picking up the kids at the ex’s. I liked to make up lives for the people I saw as I sat in my second story office. I found it fun. Like maybe that balding man in the grey pinstripe is embezzling money from his law firm and his wife is about to leave him with both kids. Maybe that woman with the blond hair, short black dress and spike heels is actually a skilled thief. Okay, so they weren’t exactly realistic lives but they were fun to think up. And, sure, my fantasies trended toward the overly dramatic or tragic but was it really so surprising when that was all my life had granted me lately?
I put the computer down on the desk and dialed Chase’s number. It rang twice before a slightly husky but groggy voice came on the phone. “Chase? Did I wake you?” I said, feeling bad, fretting that my call woke him up. But, honestly, when's the RIGHT time when you sleep the day away?
His voice instantly perked up. “Angi? Hey, how ya’ doin? I was hoping you’d call today.”
“I’m good,” I said with a smile on my face. “It’s good to be wanted.”
“So, you want me to get a movie or, maybe, a book from the library? Anything?”
“Well, just pick a winner at the video store and I’ll make something absolutely fantastic for breakfast. How’s that?”
“Sounds great. See ya’ in about a half an hour?”
“See ya’ then.” An even bigger smile came over my face. God, I was such a big fool. Why did I always feel like smiling when I was around Chase? Aw, who gives a shit? I'd better get started on that breakfast…
Title: Majestic Sunrise from the Summit of Mount Fuji