“You sure you feel well enough for a walk tonight, Annie?” Tony asks as I’m holding my breath to tie my horrendously smelly sneakers. He is speaking normally, I remind myself, and I try to deal with his voice seeming so loud that I can feel my hair vibrating. “You’ve been sick on the couch most of the day.”
“I think the fresh air will do me some good, babe.” I stop and give him a quick kiss, careful not to cringe at the fading garlic aroma on his breath from tonight’s dinner’s alfredo sauce. I grit my teeth against the scrape of the wool and pull on my hooded cable knit sweater. “Just make sure the twins get their allergy meds after their bath. I’ll be back soon.” I say, and I know I might be lying.
“You have your cell phone?” He shouted through the door I’d just locked behind me. No need to be so loud there, dude. But still, I shouted back that I did.
Okay, Courtney. What now? I skip down the front steps of my house and onto the sidewalk. I feel freer and lighter than I have all day.
After fitting my ear buds (which feel the size of wine corks) in my ear, I switch on my iPod to the lowest volume possible and laugh at the irony that the first song in the shuffle is Bullet With Butterfly Wings. The world is a vampire…
Just as I reach my favorite part of my neighborhood walk, the cresting hill where Leslie Ave meets Edro, just as I’m admiring the last trace of pink in the twilight sky, she’s there.
Suddenly I’m weightless. I feel her behind me, cold as stone and just as hard, her marble arm encircling my waist as she lifts us higher, faster and faster. We are soaring above the trees, the wind roaring like jet planes in my ears, the cold biting into my skin like razors.
And just as quickly as we went up, we descend. She lets me go and I tumble to the dry leaves covering the rec soccer field. I’m engulfed in their crunchy, earthy aroma. I get up to my feet and after my head stops swimming, I turn to face her.
“Why?” I ask breathlessly. I take off my earphones and wrap the cord up before shoving it all in my pocket.
“What did you think was going to happen?” She says snidely, dropping to the grass and sitting with her legs folded like a child at story time.
“You’re a dream.” I stand, stubbornly before her and cross my arms. I can be childish too.
“Are you really-”
“A vampire? Yes. You know all about me, Annie. You’re writing a goddamn book.”
I lower myself to the field next to her.
“I thought it was fiction.”
“I know you did. I know. Your fiction’s much better than my reality, let me tell ya.” She lays back, rests her head on her folded arms, and sighs.
“How?” I start pulling the grass out in handfuls, wiping the blades off my palms, pulling again.
“I dream-jacked you.”
“Its sorta this thing I do for fun.” She’s star-gazing, talking to me like we were discussing casserole recipes. “Hey, is that Venus?” She points to a bright light in the indigo sky. “I really should learn more about astrology. Or is astronomy. I always get those mixed up.”
“Astronomy.” I answer and lay back to observe the heavens with my new undead BFF. “So… dream-jacking?”
“Right. I get bored. It’s not like vampires sleep at night like the rest of the world. So, I sometimes enter people’s dreams. It’s like watching a movie that I can be a part of.”
“So, why me?”
She chuckles. “I was in the neighborhood?”
“Listen, jackhole, you freakin drained most of my blood. Something about me is changing. I need answers.” I sit up and turn to face her. “Serious ones.”
“Okay, settle down.” She sits up and turns to me. We are now sitting knee to knee in the middle of a soccer field. This is surreal. “I really just found you randomly, I swear. But your dreams were different. I liked how your mind worked. I kept coming back. Eventually you had a dream about writing a horror novel. I started to play around with you, to show you.”
“So all of that, every word I’ve written, came from you?”
“Give yourself some credit, Anne. You do have a way with words.” She brushes a stray piece of grass off the knee of my sweatpants. Even through the material, I can feel how icy is her touch. I scoot back, suddenly feeling too close.
“Why did you bite me?”
“You deserve it.”
“Excuse me? I deserve to be bled to death?”
She throws her head back in laughter, the rising moonlight sparkling on her crimson curls.
“Now who’s the jackhole, huh?” She smiles at me, her cobalt eyes twinkling with amusement. “You deserve this.” She gestures to herself, to the night sky, to everything. “The Gift.”
My heart thunks to my gut and back again. Did she just offer me immortality? Is this happening? Maybe I’m having a stroke. This cannot be real.
I stand up and start walking towards the wooden bleachers. All I can see is the ground before me, all I hear is the churning of my belly, I am tormented by one thought.
She’s already sitting on the top row when I make it there. Sneaky fast. I sit on the bottom row. I need space.
“Will I die?”
“Not unless you want to. I am giving you a choice here.”
“If I choose to live, what will happen to me?”
“Your body is already working on making new blood, but I can take to to a nurse friend of mine for a transfusion to speed it up. You’ll be good as new.” Soundlessly, she’s next to me, on the opposite end of the row. “Well, at least you will be once my venom- the reason your neck is still so pink and fresh where I bit you- fades in a few days. Unless…”
“Unless you choose to go the other way.”
“How does that work? Will it hurt?”
She’s closer now, I can feel the cold radiating off her body.
“No. The worst part was last night. You passed out, so…” She shakes her head in mock shame.
I laugh, “You scared the shit out of me Courtney.”
“Sorry.” She literally wipes the smile off her face and shows her best imitation of contrition.
“What happens if I choose your way?”
“I’ll have to draw a little of your blood to get the circuit started, but then I’ll fill you with my blood.”
“Hey, don’t knock it.” She shoulder-nudges me jokingly. “Then we’ll go to the earth at dawn, and when we wake next dusk, you’ll be a vampire.”
“What about my family?” I am staring at my hands, twirling my wedding rings.
“What about them?” With her index finger, She turns my face so I can look at her. Her eyes are so startlingly clear, so earnest. “You’ll always be able to protect them.”
“But what if I want to-”
“Eat them?” Her hand drops from my chin. She moves to kneel before me, and takes my hands in hers.
“I won’t let you.”
“I don’t know. I don’t…” I let my words trail off, feeling the panic starting to rise. My heart is beating so fast, I am sure I’m going to pass out.
“Ok. Let me show you something.” And quick as a flash, her arms are around me and we are up and away into the night.