The air has an edge to it tonight, a sharp blade against my throat. The saltiness of it stings my nose. I stand on the wharf, listening to the sea lions and watching boats rock on the swells. It feels good to be home.
I think back on the past few days. I wonder about the way Chris was behaving. I shook my head. I'd hated killing him, but he left me no choice. He'd been a friend, once. I thought back for a moment. Was it really only 2 years ago? How the time had flown. We used to work together, along with a few other people. We'd played the heroes more than once, he and I. I couldn't understand how he's become so sadistic, so cruel. It was like he was someone else.
I pulled myself away from that memory, and thought instead about happier ones. Firebird was back under my wing again, and should be learning some things from Vengalli now. She'd been through a lot, but she was as stubborn as I, and had the resiliency of youth.
I chuckled to myself at that. She would always have that, now. She would be perpetually young, always able to get away with things, always able to play the innocent. She was the same age as me, when I was embraced. However, the difference lay in that she had been embraced only 9 months ago, whereas I...I had been embraced 77 years ago.
I fell into the memory. It was 1920, and I had just had my 20th birthday. My parents had announced that I was going to be sent to France to school with my uncle there. I was shocked.
"Really, darling, you shouldn't be making such a fuss," my mother said.
"What? Not make a fuss! I don't want to go to France and live with some crusty old uncle!" I was near tears.
"Now, Zillah, your Uncle Tremayne is a very nice gentleman. He is looking forward to your arrival."
"Yes," added my father. "He's already set up a room for you in his house."
"I don't want to go!" I was crying now. "You're just trying to punish me for marrying Devan!" Devan was a boy I thought I was in love with. His parents and mine had forced us to get an annulment.
"That's not true!" thundered my father, as my mother burst into tears. "This is a great opportunity for you. You...look how you've made your mother cry."
"Always trying to make me feel guilty for something!" I cried. I was hurt, and I wanted them to feel as bad as I did. I then said something I wish I never had, and my whole life changed. "I hate you both!" I screamed, and ran from the room. I would never see them alive again.
The next day I was roused by a servant who told me that my car was waiting. I was quietly ushered through the house outside. A moving truck had already taken my things to the docks. It would be as if I had never lived here. I waited for a moment, stalling, half hoping my mother or my father would come say goodbye, but they never did. I bit back sobs as the car pulled away from my house.
The rest of the trip was a blur of faces and emotions. I became deeply depressed, and has to be reminded to eat. The only time I perked up was when we went through the locks at Panama. The rest of the trip across the Atlantic I spent sitting listlessly in my room, barely speaking two words to anyone. I lost weight, and by the time we got to France, my clothing hung loosely on my body.
A servant had picked me up on the dock, and driven me up a lonely, winding road lined with trees. I looked out the window, trying to spot Uncle Tremayneís house. When I finally caught sight of it, I realised that the vague descriptions I had heard about it were nothing short of direct lies.
The place was huge. It squatted on top of a small hill like an old dragon guarding its treasure. It seemed to fit better in a horror story, than in the idyllic French countryside in which it lay. I was dropped off at the front door, and quietly told that my things would find their way to my room.
I hesitated for a moment at the door, unsure if I should knock or just walk in. A butler who opened the door and motioned for me to come inside made the choice for me, however. I walked in, a little fearful, for I felt that I was walking into the mouth of the beast.
"His Lordship is currently resting, Madímselle, but if you will follow me?" said the butler. He led me up a flight of stairs and down a dark hallway. I hoped that my room wasnít as dismal as the rest of the place. He opened a door with a flourish, and stepped out of the way to let me pass.
I walked into a jungle. My eyes widened at all the decorative items. The primary theme seemed to be plants, bamboo, and animal skin. My bed itself was hung with mosquito netting draping down to the floor.
"You donít honestly expect me to sleep in here?" I said, turning towards the door. The butler, however, had already vanished. I hoped he meant to get my things. I walked around the bed and uttered a little mew of disgust at the tiger skin that was on the floor. The head and claws were still attached. "Atrocious." I thought to myself, picking my way gingerly around the room.
There were various severed heads hung on the wall, predator and prey together. I knew I wasnít going to be able to sleep here. I sighed deeply and went over to a window.
The view was nice, at least, all rolling hills and woodlands. I could definitely handle that. I turned to leave the room, and had made it to the door, when the butler popped up in front of me like a jack-in-the-box.
"Eeek!" I screamed, startled. I hadnít even heard him coming. The butler immediately began making soothing noises.
"I am sorry, Madímselle. The carpet is thick here, and tends to muffle footsteps," he explained. "I came to inform you that you may have a light supper, if you feel like eating." He eyed my loose clothing as if he hoped I did. My stomach made a hopeful noise. I didnít feel like eating, but I knew I had to. I resigned myself to attempt to eat, and followed the butler downstairs.
After a brief meal that I barely tasted, the butler showed me around the mansion. I only got as far as the library, before I excused myself. Books were my only true love, and this library made my dreams come true. Shelf after shelf of books of every colour, size and thickness. A railing ladder hung from one wall, allowing access to those shelves that were beyond any normal humanís reach.
As I looked over the titles, I saw many classics, many books that I had wanted to read, but couldnít find. My excitement grew until I came across a section that made me feel very uneasy. A Treatife on the Confunption of Blood by Vampyref, read one title. Vampires and other Unholy Beings read another. The Death and Extermination of a Vampyre.
I shivered, despite the warm room. The more titles I read, the more uneasy I became. Soon the vampires gave way to witchcraft, and demonology. By the time I got to The Necronomicon, I was scared.
"I donít believe those books would do you any good if you read them."
I shrieked for the second time that day and spun around to face the man who had spoken. He was dressed simply, and half stood in shadow so I couldnít see his face. I took him for another servant.
I stood up and backed as far away from the books as I could.
"Yes," he said, as if I asked his opinion. "That is a wise idea. You never know what might happen with those books." He stepped back a pace. "Would you mind closing that curtain? Unfortunately my eyes are very sensitive, and the light causes me pain."
I complied without thinking. ĎI hate it here," I said, as I closed the curtain.
"Why ever for?" the man asked, now stepping closer to me. I could see that he was quite handsome and very young looking. I wondered briefly who he was.
"I didnít want to come here. I didnít want to leave my home to stay with some lecherous old man. My parents forced me to."
"They did?" he said. "I donít think they meant harm."
"Well," I said, "Itís too late now to do anything about it." I could feel the tears threatening, my throat thickening.
"What do you mean?" he asked, moving closer. He was almost touching me now.
I tried to explain it unemotionally, but soon tears were slipping down my cheeks. The man held his arms open, and I stepped into them without a second thought. I cried myself out, and ended up feeling drained and exhausted, but vaguely happier than I had been a few minutes ago.
"Well, Iím sure youíll find that itís not as bad as it seems."
"I hope so. I hate being unhappy." I looked up at him, almost seeing him for the first time. He had lustrous black hair, and deep blue eyes. He was smiling at me, gently. "Who are you, anyway?" I asked.
"Well, thatís a hard question to answer," he said.
I stepped away from him. "What do you mean?"
"WellÖ" He paused for a moment, as if unsure about what to say. "I guess you could call me Uncle Tremayne."
"Wait, wait," he said, holding his hands up as if to ward of an attack. "My name is Tremayne, but Iím not really your uncle. I have no blood relation to you whatsoever."
"Oh," I said, sarcastically. "Is that all. I thought maybe you were a member of a cult that went around kidnapping girls and sacrificing them."
"Eh, no," he said. Then, "Please. I want you to be happy here. Is there anything I can do to help you?"
"Yes. You can get me out of that damn jungle room."
He laughed. "Of course," and led me out of the library.
The next few months were a blur. The only blot on the entire time was the fact that my parents refused to write to me. I gained my weight back, and managed to get into shape, too. I kept myself from becoming too curious about Tremayneís odd sleeping habits. It was difficult, but my curiosity stayed calm under my will. I was actually beginning to enjoy myself, when disaster struck.
"Zillah?" I heard Tremayne calling my name.
"Iím in the library!" I called back. He came in a few minutes later. I looked up at him, smiling. My face fell when I saw the look on his face.
"WhatÖwhatís wrong?" I asked.
"Zillah. Iíve just received some very bad news."
I set my book down. "What?"
"Your parentsÖ" he hesitated. My eyes prompted him to go on. "They were killed in a car crash. Iím sorry."
My entire body felt icy cold. The book fell from my lap as I stood up shakily.
"NoÖ" I whispered, and fainted into Tremayneís arms.
When I awoke, it was nearly 2:00 in the morning. Tremayne was leaning over me, the strangest expression on his face. It scared me a little, but at the same time a part of me welcomed it.
"What??" I muttered thickly.
"Do you remember what I told you earlier?" Tremayne asked me.
"Yes," I said, tonelessly. "My parents are dead."
"There was a will. It will be mailed to us. For now the estate is in the Cityís hands."
A cold wave washed over me as I realised how close death lingered to us. "I donít want to die!!" I exclaimed, suddenly. "Not ever!"
Tremayne looked at me sharply. With the swiftness of a snake he had framed my face in his hands. "Do you mean that? Can you possibly understand what it means to say something like that?"
I tried to shake him off but he would have none of it. "Yes!" I nearly shouted. "I do know! And I know that I DONíT WANT TO DIE!!" I was screaming now, and sobbing.
Tremayneís lips parted, and I saw something that scared me more than anything. I was frozen as his lips pressed against my neck warmly, and the fangs that I had caught a glimpse of pierced my skin. Heat filled my body as my life flowed away from it. My head swam. Tremayne was holding me closely, and I clung to him weakly. A thin moan forced its way out of my mouth. The beat of my heart grew loud as it tried to make up for the blood that was no longer there. I felt it slow, then stop.
Suddenly his mouth was gone from my throat, and something warm was shoved against my mouth. Fiery hot liquid cascaded down my throat, making me cough. My heart stuttered suddenly, beat once, then again. I sucked greedily at Tremayneís wrist, for that was what was at my mouth. He was whispering in my ear, his lips nearly touching me, but I couldnít hear him. I was too intent on the extraordinary feeling and taste of Tremayneís blood in my mouth. Finally something he was saying got through my muddled senses.
Startled, I dropped his wrist. The cut on it sealed itself in seconds. I looked at Tremayne in a new light. I looked at everything in a new light, actually. Now that I was fully conscious everything seemed clearer. Colours were more vibrant, scents more vivid. Tremayne held my gaze steadily as I ran my tongue over my fangs.
"You know what I am now, what you are. Does it frighten you?"
"A little, but deathÖ" I shook my head, "death frightens me more."
"You have been luckier in your transformation than I was in mine. Listen. Your heart still beats, you breathe. You could probably eat if you chose to. You will be able to pass easier among mortals than I, and this will surely be to your advantage. I will teach you what I can." He kissed me gently, and then left me alone to contemplate my new existence.