As I hung up the phone, I leapt toward the kitchen.  I loved to cook.  It was by far my favorite activity in the whole world.  No other deed made my heart at peace quite like it.  I’m sure most of you are wondering why a vampire would love to cook.  It’s common knowledge that vamps are on a liquid diet.  Wrong again.  In reality, I have to eat MORE than I used to in order to maintain my metabolism, thank God!  I’d always loved to eat but I had such a slow metabolism I could barely consume a thousand Calories without gaining weight.  Eating and sleeping had always been my favorite activities, though.  It’s strange one of my favorite things is sleeping when I’m an insomniac but, then again, maybe not.  I’ve always loved eating and was well-known in family lore, for example, for my innate ability to eat inhuman amounts of bread.  There was that time at Outback during my teenage years when the waitress looked at me funny and said with a mix of shock and chagrin, "Another?  Haven't you had enough?"  But, that's another story altogether.

As I entered the kitchen, I felt at home.  I glided to the fridge and started pulling out eggs, milk, sausage, bagels, the bacon you only have to microwave because I hate getting burned to hell and back by the grease but absolutely LOVE bacon, and fake biscuits because I’m lazy.  Okay, so the biscuits weren't as fake as the bacon but still...

I pulled out the frying pans, started frying sausage, broke and scrambled the eggs and moved on to starting the pancakes.  I always use these packets that are pre-made (sort of) where all you need to do is add water.  I grabbed three bags and started mixing them to the proper proportions.

In no time, the biscuits were done, the sausage gravy was warming on the stove, the eggs were yellow and fluffy and the pancakes were perfectly golden with exactly three chocolate chips each, evenly spaced.  Am I OCD or what?  I tossed the bacon and the bagels in the microwave and waited for the doorbell to ring to signal break time.  Invariably, I would eat the vast majority of this and there wouldn’t be any leftovers.  Chase would stare at me with a half bemused, half are you crazy look.  I started cleaning up.  I grabbed the spare eggs and bacon, poured myself a glass of milk and grabbed that too.  Remarkably, I opened the door without hands.  Ask me some day and I just might show you how I do it.  I put the bacon and eggs away on a shelf and pushed the blood aside to put the milk away.  Hey, sometimes it helps to have an emergency backup, right?  I grabbed the butter and started setting the table.

In moments, I finished setting the table and started putting all the food out when the bell rang.  “In a minute,” I yelled at the door as I made the finishing touches.  I looked back at the kitchen, now emptied of food but scary in its disorder.  Oh well, I’d clean it up later.  “Coming!” I said to the door again.  I went over, checked the monitor next to the door and there he was on the display, a little weird-looking with the downward angle of the lens but handsome as ever in his jeans and just barely tight-fitting black tee-shirt that looked like it said: “You should see the other guy.”  He had long black hair that came about down to his shoulders.  You couldn’t see it on the monitors but he had the most beautiful blue eyes I’d ever seen.  I unlocked the door.  “Come on in.”  For obvious reasons, I never opened the door for people during the day.  Chase came in, closed the door and I said, “Come on.  I’m starving.”  He laughed.  He had a good laugh.  With a smile on my face that belied my statement, I said, “I’m serious.  Let’s get to eating!”

One of the wonderful things about our breakfasts is they last forever.  We spend most of the time either eating while the other person is talking or vice versa.  We talked about our days (yesterday for him or last night for me).  Of course, I omitted a few details he might not understand.  As for the news, Chase got a call at the hospital about a “disturbance.”  Apparently, a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant for those not in the know) freaked out when she walked into a patient’s room.  A little flustered and maybe fearing trouble, an orderly called the cops.  After they resolved the misunderstanding, the patient was discharged.  Apparently, the staff felt if the patient was healthy enough to have sex, the person was healthy enough to be discharged.  The entire floor had laughs at that person’s expense all day.  I gotta admit.  If I’d been there, I'd have been laughing too, even if I’d been the one walking in on them.

Photo credit: User:Gnangarra / Foter.com / CC BY
As I headed back to town, it was close to sunrise.  I felt it, like an aching in my bones.  But the clan would have to wait until tomorrow to learn of my discovery.  We intended our meeting place to be inaccessible to humans and, because of that, nye impossible to get telephone access.  In the meanwhile, I’d invite my boyfriend over.  Chase was working twelve-hour days Friday through Sunday at the local P.D. as a Detective.  With any luck, he’d be getting up sometime soon and we could get together.  I liked his work schedule because I saw more of him that way.  We usually only meet during the daytime, in part because I work nights at the County Morgue as a Forensic Pathologist.  Strangely, I chose a profession where I’d have to cut up dead bodies all the time BEFORE I became a vamp.  Almost like fate, eh?

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…

Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sprengben/6830207657/
Title: Majestic Sunrise from the Summit of Mount Fuji

Well, I managed to get the Feedburner RSS feed up and running, but it quit on me shortly after, refusing to let me set up the email subscriptions.  

You know, this just figures!  Just like me!  I can't count the times I've been on a computer and it just did something stupid.  And I'm not talking about instances where I did something wrong and didn't realize.  I'm talking about being cursed.

You see, while I am a whiz with computers, I also have the innate tendency to encounter problems with them as well.  Like my first desktop.  It never worked right.  We got it refurbished, but no matter what we did, it never worked right.  I think they replaced the CD drive five times before it occurred to them that the problem was with the motherboard.  Or my sophomore year of college.  I was in a computer programming class, Java.  I spend the entire semester going downstairs to the computer lab to compile my code because Javac didn't work on my computer.  I took the stupid thing in so many times it wasn't funny but nobody could ever fix it.  Or more recently, I still have no idea what's wrong with my desktop...  It just won't run this one program.  No idea why.

Anyway, ranting aside, I will get the email subscription up...  Once feedburner cooperates...

I was breathing heavily through my nose so I could better scent my prey.  He was still here.  The strong scent of pine was messing with me but there was still that faint wet dog smell, and the blood chill that went along with it.  I'd lost him, so I was sitting cross-legged, with my katana stuck in the ground and my eyes closed.  The position was reminiscent of a yoga posture.  I pulled a long deep breath in and sank down with the exhale, releasing every molecule of air I could.  I focused on all of the smells around me, on sounds of animals as they traipsed through the underbrush.  I’d been sitting there for maybe three or four minutes now and I was afraid I really had lost him, that all that remained in the vicinity were a few squirrels and an owl looking for a meal.

Suddenly, I knew.  To the east.  In one smooth motion, I launched my body in a way that had taken me some time to perfect.  The grace, strength, and speed attributed to a vampire did not come naturally but had to be learned, trained into muscle memory like with anything else.  We just had more potential than an ordinary human, that's all.

Within minutes of changing course, his revolting scent was getting stronger.  He thought I had given up.  Fool.  He must have stopped too.  Otherwise, he wouldn’t be so close.  I stopped within twenty feet of him, seeing his massive frame through the pines.  He was a big one alright.  My clan warned me about a powerful one in the area.  Apparently, I’d found him.  In my head, I knew the advantage in this situation was mine.  He couldn’t smell me.  But even without a scent, not much beat a werewolf's hearing and vision, so I'd have to be quick and careful.

I waited in the darkness, not even breathing.  Letting my heart just about stop to aid me in my current endeavor.  There was no way he’d hear me but, as I waited behind a tree, I was still concerned he might see me before I was prepared to attack.  I wanted to observe him for a while before I ended him.  As a general rule, I never enter a battle without being fully prepared for what I am up against.

An hour dragged by, but the werewolf hadn't moved.  This worried me.  And bored me.  I've never been good at sitting still.  My impatience only intensified after turning.  As I sat out of sight, but still within range of my sense smell and hearing, I couldn't help but work through the facts in my head.  As I frowned and nearly puckered up my entire face in consternation, I kept coming to the same conclusion: werewolves simply don’t wait around for no apparent reason.  It was a full moon.  There was fun to be had.  And besides, most werewolves don’t have any self-control when they are fully transformed.  I was starting to get the feeling I was in WAY over my head and I didn't like it.  Not one bit.  As I gnawed on my lower lip, I groaned inwardly, not allowed the luxury of making a noise but frustrated none-the-less.  It looked like this was going to be strictly recon.

Fifteen more minutes and another werewolf showed up from the opposite direction.  Though it seemed strange, from what little I knew of werewolves, they’d been planning on meeting each other.  That much was obvious and, from the looks of things,  I had not one, but two, powerful werewolves on my hands.  Though they didn’t talk, no fully transformed werewolf could because of the jaw structure, they seemed to communicate and when they first met, they shook paws, almost like business associates.  It was kind of creepy.  With their paws, they drew diagrams in the sandy dirt.  I couldn’t see what they drew but I only had to assume it was to make up for the lack of speech.  It took another hour before they dispersed.  I followed the one I’d tracked this far as he left the small clearing and headed to the north.  I had a bad feeling about this...

It took a solid hour and a half before I finally got to see where he was heading and there was just one word for it.  Trouble.  As the forest finally opened into empty fields, I saw a large stone mansion in the background.  As my blood ran cold again, I knew instinctively it was a werewolf safe-haven.  My best guess would be the Were I’d just followed was their leader…

I've been wanting to revamp my website for a while now.  I've been focusing on my blog and building an audience.  But, I'm also trying to get published.  As some of you may know, I'm planning on self-publishing, which frequently means doing a lot of the work myself.

I'm editing right now (which is slow but coming along).  Suddenly, I thought of something.  Forever After was originally a serialized novel, way back in the day.  Back in college, I started writing Forever After for a friend of mine, who read a character bio I'd written for a text game site and begged me for more.  I tried to write a chapter a week (though there were times when I went long stretches without), but I found that having an audience and having people that anticipated my next update (whether imagined or real) helped me to push forward and keep getting that update every week.

So, in the hopes that 1) I will stay on track this way and 2) I might gain an audience, I will start posting my book on my website.  I'm going to try to keep posts to roughly thousand word batches, which will vary depending on scene lengths.  This way, the posts will not be too short or too long.  

Well, I will be posting Chapter 1 momentarily.  Hope to see you soon.

On a housekeeping note, the RSS feed link at the top of the page is for the blog.  There is a temporary RSS feed in the sidebar.  I am currently working on setting up joint RSS and email subscriptions through Feedburner, but it is fighting me.