I was sitting by my son's side.
The sun was setting and I was feeling excited and nervous and guilty as hell. I thought back to my first few nights as a vampire, and I was certain that I wasn't aware that a drastic change had occurred. Not yet. It would take a few days.
Indeed, I just remember sleeping and healing, and it wasn't until a few days later, at home, that the cravings began. Cravings for the red stuff.
I looked down at my son. In a matter of days or hours or minutes – or perhaps it had already happened, he would go from being a sweet little boy, to an immortal with a hunger for blood and a penchant for turning into a little vampire bat. No doubt, a cute little vampire bat.
And be with you forever.
I heard the words again. And again. And again.
I suddenly had an image of me fighting traffic for an eternity, listening to infomercials for an eternity. An eternity of bad hair days, of showering and putting on deodorant. An eternity of drinking blood.
Mostly, though, an eternity alone.
I never feared death. Death was the natural order of things and I was always certain that there was something waiting for us beyond. If so, then why fear death?
But I would never discover what lay beyond, would I? I would never see the face of God. I would never sit across from Jesus or Buddha or Krishna. Instead, I would only sit across from a TV, or whatever passed for a TV in the far future, while yet another infomercial for yet another magic dishrag.
The medallion had been my answer, of course. It had been my way out of the immortality game. The immortality prison. My chance to escape an eternity of doldrums.
But not anymore.
The sun was setting. I knew this because I could feel some of the weight on my shoulders diminishing. Also, there was a small tingling that was beginning to creep up along my spine. A sort of awakening perhaps. An awakening to all that I could be. I ached for the sun to set. Longed for it to do so.
Next to me, my son stirred.
"Hi baby," I said.
"Mommy, I had a bad dream."
I had no doubt. "I know, honey. I know."
I stayed my son's side for many hours.
My ex-husband sent me a text, asking how our son was doing. I told him he was improving, and Danny sent a happy face and an "XO." As in hugs and kisses.
I didn't reply. Receiving X's and O's from Danny felt all kinds of weird. We were long, long past the days of X's and O's.
Now we were just "ex's." Period.
My son's illness had somehow brought me closer to Danny – or, more accurately, brought him closer to me. Except, I didn't want him closer. Not anymore. I forgave, but I didn't forget. How could I forget getting banned from my own kids? How could I forget the blackmail and the heartlessness? How could I forget the blatant cheating?
I couldn't. Not ever.
In fact, I went back into the message and erased his "XO," shuddering as I did so.
Anthony slipped in and out of consciousness. Doctors and nurses came and went, as well, drawing blood, checking his vitals, seemingly impressed by his progress. Everything, that is, except his lowering body temperature.
Anthony described one of his dreams to me, and as he spoke, my heart broke. He described a dark room. In the room was something calling to him, asking him to come closer. He didn't want to get closer. He wanted to turn and run but he was trapped. In fact, there was no door in the room. No door and no light, but something was in there with him, asking him again to come closer. Afraid and crying and screaming my name, he finally turned and faced what was calling to him.
Except he couldn't see it. The voice told him he was a good boy and to step just a little bit closer. He did so. The voice had told him: good good, that's a good boy, now come closer still. And he did so. One tentative step at a time, and each time he drew closer to the voice, he was praised. And when he was certain he was standing in front of whatever was calling to him, hands seized him, squeezing him, hurting him, and, while he told me this story, he burst into tears and so did I.
Nurses came running. I assured them that everything was okay. And when we were alone, I hugged my son tight and he lapsed into a deep sleep.
As he slept, I cracked the ancient book open with excitement and trepidation. I had no clue what it contained, and I had waited until this moment to scan the contents. The title had given me hope that the book would be written in English, but a part of me still feared that it was in Latin, Greek or even Hebrew.
Dust sifted down from the cover, catching some of the light from the lamp near my son's bed. Outside the door, two nurses hurried past. Someone was weeping not too far away. The weeping could have been a mother.
There was a title page…in English, thank God. According to the title page the book had been published…this couldn't be right. What the hell was going on? Had Fang set me up? Was this some kind of sick joke?
Hands shaking, I read the copyright date, and unlike most books that gave copyrights years, this one gave an exact date.
I stared at it long and hard.
Surely someone was playing a joke on me, and the only person who knew I was at the library was Fang, and that was impossible since I was privy to most of Fang's thoughts –
There was, of course, another who knew I was in the library.
The tall man with the bow tie. He knew I was there. Or, at least, had followed me there. Had he planted the book? And then inserted the corresponding card into the card catalog system?
There was only one thing left to do…I turned to the first page and started reading.
It was full dark by the time I pulled out of the hospital.
Danny had come by bearing gifts. He brought Anthony a milkshake from McDonald's and me a bottled water. Danny, of course, knew of my dietary restrictions. He was in a good mood and I didn't appreciate the overly familiar hug he gave me. Also, with Anthony's marked improvements, he was being transferred from the intensive care unit to the immediate care unit, where his team of doctors could still keep an eye on him while he continued to recover.
I didn't know much about anything but immediate care sounded a whole hell of a lot better than intensive care.
By my reckoning, I had only three days to find an answer for Anthony before my son realized what his mommy had done to him. With father and son chumming it up, I gave Anthony a kiss, nodded at a beaming Danny, and left the hospital with my book.
Now driving, I couldn't help but feel so damn alive and strong. So unstoppable. It was all I could do to sit still in the driver's seat. There was so much energy surging through me that I could have burst into flames. I wanted to fly. I wanted to take flight. To where, I didn't know. Just somewhere. Anywhere. I wanted to be free and feel the wind on my face and watch the earth sweep far below me.
Soon, I thought. Soon…
Twenty minutes later, I was back at Hero's in Fullerton. After all, Fang had directed me to the university library, which had led me to this strange book, and I needed to know what the hell was going on.
The bar was hopping. I spotted Fang working like a madman behind the bar. He seemed to be making two or three drinks at once. He might be a wanted man, but he was also a helluva bartender. I was tempted to march over to him and demand to know what he knew about the book, but now wasn't a good time. I could wait for the crowd to die down or for him to catch his breath. Because he had a lot of explaining to do.
He caught my eye through the sea of people, and I think that was a testament more to our psychic connection than dumb luck. I was a small girl, and the chances of him seeing me through the crowd and dim light were slim to none.
And yet there he was, pausing, staring, smiling.
Hello, Moon Dance.
The words appeared in my thoughts as surely as if he had been standing next to me. I nearly jumped and he laughed lightly from across the room.
I didn't mean to startle you, Moon Dance.
Vampires don't get startled. We get even.
He chuckled again. So what brings you back? Do you have news about your son?
Yes, and we need to talk.
Can you give me a few minutes? There are a lot of people who need to get drunk tonight.
I do try. Let's talk in a bit, okay?
But we're not talking, we're thinking. We're freaks.
No, you're the freak.
Fine, I thought. Think at you soon.
And from across the bar he winked and got back to work. I stepped outside and looked up at the waxing moon. I reached into my jeans pocket and pulled out a stick of sugar-free gum. Recently, I had discovered that I could chew gum without any ill side effects – other than the occasional minor stomachache – and you can damn well better believe I was going to chew all the gum I could.
I marveled at the juicy fruit flavor as my taste buds sprang into action.
I could also smoke without any adverse side effects, like pesky lung cancer. I did that often, too, but tonight the gum chewing was enough.
A glance at the moon invariably conjured thoughts of Kingsley Fulcrum and his own freaky condition. Was this really the last I had seen of the big lug? It felt final. It felt empty.
I cared for the big oaf. But maybe it was just a classic example of rebound love. He was the first man I had grown close to after the dissolution of my marriage. All my emotions – and maybe even a small amount of love – had been erroneously dumped onto him.
Confusing him and me.
I had just blown the mother of all bubbles when Fang appeared in the doorway. The bubble burst.
"So let's talk," he said. "I only have a few minutes. And you've got gum in your hair."READ MORE >>