Moon Child (Vampire for Hire #4)

Chapter 3

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Chapter Four

I stood by his side.

Opposite his bed, rain began pattering against the hospital window, lightly at first and then stronger.

Something wants my attention, I thought.

I ignored the rain, even as a strong gust of wind now shook the window, which was hidden behind the closed blinds. I ignored the rain and the wind and reached down and stroked my son's hair. My narrow fingers slipped through his hot tangled locks. He was too hot. He was too sick. He wasn't going to make it. I knew it all the way to the very depths of my being. His vitals hadn't registered anything yet, but they would.

Soon.

I continued stroking his hair. He seemed to be getting hotter by the second. He also shifted toward my touch, moving toward me imperceptibly, making a small, mewing sound.

The rain picked up, drumming now on the window.

My heart was racing, and for me that's saying something. I continued standing by his side, knowing that this was my one chance to turn away. To not do this thing. I had been advised that he had fulfilled his life's mission, and that it was time for him to move on. I had been advised by a very powerful entity that my son was meant to die. That it had been ordained so, or some such bullshit.

Well, fuck that.

I was his mother. I carried him in me for nine months, I stayed up with him countless nights, bathed him, fed him and worried about him daily. I loved him so much that it hurt. I loved him so much that I would kill for him. I loved him so much that….

I would give my life, my soul, my eternity for him.

I was his mother, and I was ordaining – declaring, dammit – that he would live. And lord help anyone who tried to stop me.

I knew I could be damning him forever. I knew this, understood this, but I also knew there was a glimmer of hope. The medallion. Reputed to reverse vampirism. I had always figured I would seek its answers for myself.

But not anymore.

Now I would seek its answers for him. At all costs. I would devote my life to finding a way to turn him mortal again, to give him back his normal life.

And in the meantime, how would I explain to him what I had done to him? I didn't know, but I would think of something.

Later.

For now, though, time was wasting. My son was growing dangerously hot. I reached down and touched his narrow shoulder.

"Anthony," I whispered, leaning down, speaking directly into his ear. "Wake up, baby. Mommy's here…and everything's going to be okay."

Chapter Five

It took a few more tries to awaken him, but I finally succeeded.

He emerged slowly from wherever he'd been. I suspected that place was the blackest of depths. Then again, perhaps not. Perhaps he'd been in heaven. Perhaps he'd been playing on streets paved with gold. Or, more likely, playing Xbox with Jesus.

Only to return here, with me, sick as hell in a hospital and ready to die. Perhaps had I let him be, he wouldn't have suffered. Perhaps he would have slipped out of this world and into the next with ease and little pain.

Perhaps.

He awakened slowly. As he did, a part of me screamed to let him sleep. If a nurse came in now, she would have been mortified.

What am I doing?

"Mommy?" He squirmed under my arm.

"Hi, baby."

"What's happening, Mommy?"

I'm saving your life, I thought. I'm saving it the only way I know how.

"How would you like to feel a little better, baby?" I whispered, and it was all I could do to keep my voice steady, to keep it from cracking with fear and uncertainty.

Anthony turned his sweating face toward me; his eyes focused on me for the first time. As they did so, I was surprised by their strength and ferocity. Despite the darkness, he seemed to look deeply into me.

It was hard to imagine that this strong-looking boy was dying, but the black halo hadn't retreated; indeed, it was thicker than ever, and I saw his impending death as surely as I was seeing him now.

"They're waiting for me, Mommy."

I started shaking my head. "No, don't say that."

"It's okay, Mommy. I'll always be with you. Forever and ever."

"No, baby, please don't say that."

"I'm supposed to go soon, Mommy. They're waiting for me."

I was still shaking my head, crying, whimpering, rocking, holding him tightly. Too tightly. "Stop talking like that, baby. We're going to get you better. I have some medicine for you."

His eyes narrowed, studying me in the darkness. He then turned his head and looked to the right. I looked, too, and saw something I wasn't prepared to see. The light energy near the window seemed somehow brighter, more frenetic, more alive. Something was there, something had materialized, but I couldn't see what. At least, not clearly. Whatever it was, it wasn't a human spirit, that much I knew. It was somehow brighter and it radiated a warmth that I could feel from across the room.

"He wants me to tell you something, Mommy."

I was crying now. I couldn't stop my emotions. I wanted to be strong for my son, but I couldn't. I just couldn't. This was too much for me.

"Who, honey?"

"The man in the light."

I tried to speak but I couldn't. Sobs burst from my throat. Finally, I said, "What…what does he want to say?"

But I knew what he was going to say, didn't I? That my son was only here on earth for a brief time. That he was meant to pass on at a young age, a death that was meant to help others grow. That he was here to fulfill some cosmic karma bullshit. I didn't want to hear it. What mother wanted to hear that?

My son was quiet for a moment, cocking his head slightly, listening. Then he smiled broadly. "He says that he loves you, Mommy. That he has loved you from the beginning of time, and will always love you. Forever and ever." He paused, smiling at me serenely, and now I saw now a golden light around his face. The light shone through even the blanketing darkness. My son looked beautiful, angelic. He cocked his head again, and listened some more. "He wants me to be strong for you." My son's face turned somber, and now he was nodding…a very sad and solemn nod. "He says you are making the best choice you can. He wants you not to be so hard on yourself."

"I don't," I gasped, my words strangled, "I don't understand what's happening."

My son reached out, took my hand. I could barely see him through the blur of tears. He said, "Mommy, sometimes it's okay not to understand."

The words came from my little boy, but they were not his own. They were from someone older and wiser, and I felt again that I was speaking directly to his soul.

"But I don't want to lose you, baby. I can't bear the thought. I couldn't live. I wouldn't know how to live. But I can help you. I know how to help you. You can stay here with me. Is that what you want, honey?"

He squeezed my hand, and now he stroked my hair gently, his little fingers running through my matted locks before they gently turned my face toward him. "Of course, Mommy."

I sensed that he was making a great sacrifice. I sensed that he was postponing heaven to be here with me now.

"He's telling me there are many paths a life can take, Mommy. There are many alternate routes to the main road – " Hearing my little boy say alternate was just surreal -  "We are going to head down an alternate route, a longer route. But we'll still get there, Mommy, eventually."

My son paused, looking over at the warm source of light. He squeezed my hand.

"He's going now, Mommy. He wants you to know there are no wrong choices. Do what you have to do to be happy."

Now the light near the window began to fade, and as it did so, my son turned somber. A moment later, his eyes shut tightly.

"Anthony!" I cried, suddenly terrified. But he was still breathing. Barely.

"Mommy?" His voice sounded weak, tiny. It wasn't the same voice I had just heard.

What the hell was going on?

"It's me, honey," I said, sounding weak myself.

"I feel sick, Mommy." He was hotter than ever.

"I know, baby," I said, as I pushed up the sleeve of my sweatshirt. "I know, and I have some medicine for you."

I brought my exposed wrist to my mouth, paused briefly, and then bit down.

Chapter Six

The hospital was nearly silent. The hum of machines. Light murmurings. Beeping somewhere. Actually, lots of beeping.

But now another sound filled the air. This one had been barely distinguishable at first, but now it was growing louder. And not just louder. More frequent, too.

It was the sound of drinking, slurping, swallowing.

At first, I had let the blood from my wrist drip freely into his mouth, although a lot of it didn't actually make it into his mouth. Some of it had spilled down his chin, and I had acted quickly with tissues from his bedside table to catch the stray droplets before they stained his sheets and gown, and led to unwanted questions.

But as more blood passed through his mostly closed lips, he began to react. First, his tongue appeared, swiping at the blood. Then his lips parted.

And then he swallowed.

He made a noise then, a strangled gasping noise, and as he did so, I saw something remarkable. A soft white light issued from his mouth, briefly hovered before the bed, and then faded away.

And just as it faded away, my son reached up and gripped my wrist with surprising strength, and held onto it tightly as he drank from my wound.

And he drank and drank.

My blood. My tainted blood. I'm horrible. I'm a horrible mother. I'm a ghoul. I should be locked away. But you're saving him, dammit. You're giving him a chance to fight another day.

I was a wreck. My mind was a wreck. My heart was a wreck.

As my son suckled from my wrist – reminding me briefly of the babe who had suckled at my breast so long ago – something else amazing happened, something that made me realize there was no turning back.

The black halo began to recede…to be slowly replaced by a faint silver shimmering, emanating perhaps an inch or two from his body. My son's beautiful natural golden and red aura was nowhere to be seen.

It's happening, I thought.

And still my son drank from my wrist. I could feel the blood being drawn from my arm, sucked into his ravenous mouth. The instructions had been quite clear: You will know he's had enough when you begin to feel weak, as weak as you do in the presence of the sun. The instructions had come from a fellow creature of the night. A much older creature of the night. It was, she said, a fine balance of giving him enough but also not depleting myself.

In the hallway, I heard footsteps. In fact, two sets of footsteps.

They're coming.

And still my son drank, biting down onto my wrist hungrily, drinking great gulps of blood from my open wound.

The footsteps were just outside the doorway. I could hear urgent talking now.

The weakness hit me with a shudder. I gasped and yanked my arm away, tearing some of the flesh. My son's drinking had kept the wound open, kept it from healing supernaturally, as it was inclined to do.

But now as I pulled it free, I could already feel it closing, healing. I grabbed tissue from the bedside table next to me, and had just wiped my son's lips and chin when the lights flicked on.

Doctors and nurses rushed in, and as I stepped aside, I discreetly wiped the blood from my wrist and pocketed the crimson-stained tissues.

The cause for the alarm had been simple enough.

My son's heartbeat had rapidly decreased, so much so that the heart monitors had alerted the nursing staff.

I stood back, watching the nurses and doctors swarm over my son, and as they swarmed over him, my son sat motionless. Fully alert and awake.

Watching me.

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