“Justine, I’m so sorry. This will be very hard on you. The others won’t accept you. They’ll try to kill you, with any likelihood. You're a murderer in their eyes. I had to do this. It fit the crime. I’ve given you a new life, one you may truly hate, the one thing you fear, but it's fair and I did it because you tried to take mine.” Death wouldn't have been punishment for someone like her. We both knew that. Even torture would have been endured, with her hating me all the while but not truly feeling punished. It was really the only option available, the only punishment appropriate. I didn't relish her rapidly approaching realization of what had happened.
I looked away from my captive, whose face was now drawn and shocked. I wondered what she was thinking. Was she connecting the dots? Was she putting two and two together? Reading between the lines to realize what I'd done? My conscience gnawed away at me from the inside out. It was cruel, what I’d just finished, but I’d told the truth. It was necessary. It was right, I told myself. In a desperate attempt to appease my damaged sense of right, I said, “You’ll need a place to stay at first. If you wish, you can stay at mine. My boyfriend won’t like it but he can deal.” Then again, I felt like I hadn't seen him in half of forever so maybe he wouldn't even notice. Man, I had no life.
“You have a boyfriend?” Justine asked, almost simultaneously saying something with bloodsucker in it but I couldn’t make out any more than that. I let it go with a shrug. The sneer that crossed her face momentarily was quickly overtaken by a hard set to her jaw and eyes – a look I'd become familiar with in the last few weeks.
“He’s not a vampire," as if to answer what her next question would invariably be.
She spun her head around in whiplash fashion, “Wait, he’s human? Normal?” She was stunned. Go figure. Her shock turned to menace and a finely tuned killer instinct bled through her eyes, directed at me. I shrugged that off too.
For some strange reason, I felt the need to justify my actions. “I’m a fairly young vamp. I haven’t quite figured everything out yet. I like him. He likes me. I haven’t told him my secret but we’re taking it real slow because I want more out of him than just my night escapades. It's taken everything I am to separate him in my mind’s eye from all my night-time conquests.” A gloom came over my face and I was suddenly in a real mopey mood. I walked away from my captive, fed up with all her questions. She could just go to hell for all I cared.
I came back about an hour later with a knife. I saw as her eyes bulged momentarily and knew what her assumptions would be. But as always, her face returned to a vicious scowl, her eyes shooting daggers at me that could cut steel. “Come on! I thought you said you weren’t going to kill me?” Her voice trembled a little, really the first time since this all began, but with the sneer, I couldn't tell if it was fear or anger. Yup, assumptions confirmed. I walked behind her. “Come on, what are you doing?” she said with an infinitesimal bit of panic in her voice. I stood behind her, took the knife and ran the blade back and forth until the fraying stopped and it went right through. She whipped her hands around in front and started to rub her wrists reflexively as she leapt out of the chair, more a stumble than a leap, and slammed her back to the wall, glaring at me. At the same time, I came back around and lounged in the chair she'd vacated, my posture saying it all - I was better than her and not at all worried about the threat she might impose, which, of course, was nil.
Not saying anything but making it obvious she wasn't going anywhere yet, I handed her a pint of blood. “Drink. I don’t want you going crazy on me, 'kay?” My tone left no room for argument.
“I’m not going to drink that filth,” she spat out in protest. Apparently, listening wasn't her strong suit...
“Come on, it’s AB positive, the good stuff. That’ll fill you up good. I’ve got pasta on the stove too, then we’re going out.”
“What for?” Her eyebrows were scrunched so low they practically made her eyes disappear.
“It’s a Saturday, what else?”
She looked at me solemnly. “Oh,” was all she said as she stared at the red-filled plastic bag that lay on the floor in front of her.
Minutes later, she joined me in the kitchen. I turned around. The bag was empty and she looked a little green. “How can you do that stuff?” Her voice was kind of thin and weak. If not for superior hearing, I might not have heard the words at all.
“Well, the first time I did it, as I told you, was while in a state of delirium not to mention excruciating pain. I drink blood because that state terrifies me. I wait until I start to feel weird, when I know I’ve only got hours until I start to feel it. You’ll feel out of breath at first. Then pain will come. It’s not pleasant and you’ll do just about anything to prevent it. You just haven’t experienced that or connected drinking blood will alleviating it.”
“Oh, okay." She didn't sound relieved, though. Or convinced.
"Besides, I didn't really mind the taste of blood before I turned so it doesn't bother me now." Justine's mug whipped around in utter shock, her mouth gaping and making little sound. I shrugged. "I was accident prone. It wasn't uncommon to have an open wound and suck it until it stopped bleeding. It just tastes like a penny, really. Fresh blood is best, though. The real gag factor is when the blood starts to clot and, no matter how many times I do it, cold blood still makes me gag. Even if it DOES have chemicals to prevent clotting." I turned on Justine with a conspiratorial wink, "And let me tell you, they don't advertise that the chemicals they add makes the blood taste like shit." I turned back to the kitchen and got to work.
Justine started to follow. "God, that smells good. What the devil is it?” She seemed to speak almost begrudgingly, like she expected me to poison or attack her at any second.
“Just BBQ pasta. That’s another thing. You’ll spend a hell a lot more on food now. Your metabolism is substantially faster. And the better sense of smell makes it so anything you liked the smell of you LOVE now and didn’t like, well, you HATE it now. If you didn’t like the smell of garlic before, you’ll be completely intolerant to it now. I can’t eat spicy foods anymore because I had a mild intolerance for it before I was infected. All your senses are enhanced and so are your reactions to them. Come on, time to eat.” I grabbed the food out of the kitchen with professional skill and put everything on the dining room table.
“Great, I’m starving.” We both ate with gusto, although I noticed Justine didn't eat any food until she noticed me eat it without harm. The first bite went to feed her napkin surreptitiously. In a strange way, considering the company, it was kind of nice not being the only one around here with an inhuman appetite. Kind of made me feel like I wasn't a pig for once.
I knew she’d watched me on the hunt but I felt it was important for her to get first hand experience. I never got the chance when I was turned. Instead, I nearly got myself killed or confined permanently to a hospital because I didn’t know what was going on. Yeah, two thumbs up to my little brother.
From now on, at the very least, I’d be her mentor, maybe even her friend. And I wasn't going to fuck it up like my brother did. I'd teach her what she needed to know. I'd help her through the transition. Help her get accustomed to this new life. With a little luck, she could do this.
The ride was uncomfortable, painfully so. Half a dozen times along the way, Justine imagined herself flinging the car door open at sixty miles an hour and jumping out, rolling along the side of the road until she finally came to a stop. In her head, the door resisted almost beyond her ability to hold it open. It nearly took off a limb when she leapt out. When she hit the ground, she imagined the impact on her body. Something would probably break so pain would slice through her like a knife. She would, of course, get right back up and take off at a dead run but, even in her imaginings, she was trapped because every time it ended with the BS catching her.
She glared at her captor once more but the monster was oblivious. It gave her chills how normal it acted but then again, she still remembered the coldness in its voice, its demeanor, when she was tied to the chair. It was all a façade, wasn’t it? Without making a sound, she continued on in her head, the one place that was all hers, the one thing that hadn’t changed. The BS might have had strength, speed, but Justine had cunning and the advantage of surprise.
Time passed without it really registering and, eventually, she found the back roads abandoned and civilization enveloping them, in a matter of speaking. Cars filled the roads with people making the twice daily jaunt between work and home, the traffic enough to slow but not stop progression. On the sidewalks and leaning against storefronts were individuals in gang colors or simply kids up to no good. There was a time, that would have spurred her to action. Now, all she saw were rats. Mostly harmless really but ugly all the same. You chose not to see them but they were there and, just like rats, utterly characteristic of places like this.
Her head spun in turmoil, unable to rectify the façade with her long accustomed reality, with her hate. Words like murderer, evil and monster ricocheted through her head nearly at the speed of light, repeating in a never ending chaotic pattern. Images of snarling monsters she’d killed in the past intermingled with images of the BS sitting at the dinner table, intermingled with it staring her down while Justine was tied to that chair.
Then, with a final image, her brain cleared of all the chaotic noise. A single image, a single memory, tinted red with blood, rage and pain. A broken form, soaked red with blood along her collar, matted in her once beautiful curly brown hair. Body positioned in an impossible angle, thrown away as if it were garbage, leftovers. An animal attack, the coroner had said. Accidental death, the report had read. But it hadn’t been an accident. She’d seen the wound. An animal would tear the flesh of its victim but there was no tearing. An animal would cause lacerations elsewhere from claws. There were no cuts. Just a crumpled form, drained of blood and left with the refuse, no longer a person but an empty vessel, drained of what made it special, life.
In a moment of clarity and resolution, she heaved the door open while the car was moving and jumped out, landing in a roll, then quickly getting up and disappearing into the night. Her shoulder and hip hurt. Her clothes were torn, abraded. She had no means of transportation. But she had training. She knew how to disappear. She’d done it so many times before. She would do it again. The night wasn’t just a vampire’s friend, it was hers as well.
I stared at the open door as it smacked forward and bounced back, not quite closing. I had to remind myself to close my gaping maw, catching flies and all that. I looked around but I was stuck in heavy traffic, cars on all sides and no parking in sight. I looked back at the sidewalk but she was already gone, her dark clothing allowing her to disappear. Shit. This was bad, very bad.
When I got home, I was exhausted. It took a good five minutes for me to find a parking space nearby and, even then, I was convinced my car would get stolen before I returned to it, no matter how much of a crap car it was. It was a Volkswagen so probably the parts were worth a heck of a lot more than the whole because, Lord knows, the parts cost a small fortune.
I looked everywhere for Justine, even tried hunting by scent but never came up with a lead. It didn't help when your quarry was in the middle of a transformation that changed her scent so that from minute to minute, she didn't smell the same. Finally, when I was risking getting burned if I didn't call it a night, I headed home.
At home, I settled on hot tea and a hot bath to sooth my rankled nerves. I needed to relax, forget for a little while. I couldn't search for her during the daytime. No point in fretting about it. The tea finished before the bath filled so I placed the cup in the bathroom to cool as I gathered supplies. I went to the linen closet in the hall bathroom to get a fresh towel. I would have preferred a hot, fluffy towel fresh from the dryer but I settled on just the fluffy part.
I didn't notice it right away. After all, the linen closet was on the opposite wall, so my back was turned. But I glimpsed it briefly when I walked in and my mind registered it on more than one level as I took the extra-large cream bath towel off the shelf. My nails dug into the soft material and my whole body shook. I turned around slowly and looked at the sink with dread. There was a faint pink tinge to the cream porcelain, what looked like a brownish dirt line around the inside of the sink. An ordinary human might not have noticed. But I recognized the appearance. I could smell it. Very faint. Watered down. There was probably a clot still in the drain. Blood. My stomach sank as the scent enveloped me. I'd created a monster and now someone was going to pay with his or her life.