My eyes opened to complete blackness. The earthy scent of dirt filled my mouth and nose and my limbs felt heavy and difficult to move. I could feel a terrible tugging feeling in my stomach like my flesh was knitting back together. As this receded, a slow-burning feeling began to spread. It was like each individual cell was screaming for something it didn’t have.
There was a dull ache in my jaw and something in my hand popped as it clicked back into place. Was this death? It was certainly painful enough, but I hadn’t imagined it would be so… dark.
This was much more like my first death, I realised.
In fact, it felt very similar. I was even buried in the ground, I came to realise. That was the heavy weight on top of me. How deep was I? Would I be able to dig myself out? Wait what if I was still alive? Surely I would need to breathe! I opened my mouth reflexively and got nothing but a mouthful of foul-tasting earth and water. I coughed and spat it back out the best that I could. This didn’t go particularly well because I just kept accidentally inhaling more.
It suddenly struck me just how… silent everything was. Save for the healing, my body was doing… nothing. My heart lay still and silent in my chest. Listening intently, I could actually hear things above me. There was a rhythmic pattering- rain? Faint rustling told me that worms and other creepy crawlies were moving through the soil around me. Thankfully, they all seemed to be giving me a wide berth.
So it seemed that I was in fact dead. Exactly what kind of dead, I wasn’t yet sure. Unless this was hell, I somehow doubted that I was in any kind of afterlife.
It had come on so slowly that I hadn’t really realised it, but suddenly I realised how strong I felt. My lingering fear of being trapped suddenly vanished; I could dig through miles underground if I had to. Awareness rushed in, I ran my tongue carefully along my teeth, feeling the familiar sharp points. I wasn’t dead, I was undead.
With that new realisation, I started digging, ignoring the pain in my body. I knew what I needed now; blood. I was literally starving for it. The earth above me was fairly loosely packed, although it had started to freeze, slowing my journey a little. I mostly had to use my arms, since it was harder to get my legs up when starting from a reclined position. Quickly I reached the surface and punched through, creating a hole big enough to pull myself out of. Earth showered off of me as I rose, shaking it from my hair.
The second that I inhaled I was hit with a powerfully enticing scent.
I didn’t care whose it was, I needed it. Something moved near me and I automatically shifted into a hunting crouch with a fierce snarl. My eyes darted around searching for the danger and landed on someone a few paces away from me. There was something familiar about him but I couldn’t think. All I could hear was the rapid wet beating of his heart pumping the blood around his body.
He took a step nearer and I growled in warning.
“Scarlett?” The pain and hope in his voice broke through to me.
“Nick.” I ground his name out between my teeth in painful realisation.
Everything in me was screaming for me to rip out his throat. Only the tiniest voice yelled in protest, making me hunch over in pain. I gripped my head, trying to gain control of my thoughts.
“Scarlett.” He said again, encouraged by my use of his name.
I held up a hand and staggered away from him, almost stumbling on the uneven ground.
“If you come any closer, I will kill you.” I snapped, needing him to understand. “Your blood is screaming at me.” I stopped breathing, trying to reason around the scent that was driving me mad. It didn’t help, I could hear the tantalising blood rushing around his system.
Understanding flooded his expression. “What can I do?”
“Just get away from me.” I moaned “I can’t take it much longer.”
“You need blood.” He looked lost.
“I know!” I howled, falling to the ground and digging my hands in. The effort to not kill him was growing more impossible by the second. It was actually causing me physical pain as my body rebelled.
Instead of leaving, he took a step toward me. There was a look of pained resolution on his face.
“What are you doing, get away from me!” I hissed in horror.
“Drink my blood.”
That sentence coming from him was almost enough to shock me out of my frenzied state. The monster in me surged to the surface in excitement as my possible prey came nearer.
“No, no, no.” I was shaking with the struggle of suppressing my coiled muscles. My body itched to pounce on him. His scent filled my awareness, blotting out everything else. That glorious smell overlaid and intertwined with the enticing scent of his blood.
“It’s got to come from somewhere right?” He said. “There is no getting around that.”
But not him, it could be anyone else just not him. If I killed a stranger I would feel bad, yes but the guilt wouldn’t eat me up inside. I couldn’t kill Nick, it would destroy me.
Unfortunately, he took a final step and tried to touch me on the shoulder. It proved too much for my already non-existent self-control and I sprang, knocking him back into the dirt.
I could see him battling the instinct to fight me but I had him pinned. I knew what he saw, a hideous red-eyed monster. I’d killed enough of them recently to know the feeling. With this in mind, it astonished me when he met my eyes calmly and tilted his head back. A clear invitation for me to bite him.
The scent of his throat overwhelmed me and before I knew what was happening, my fangs were sinking into his flesh.
The taste of his was blood was pure ecstasy and I cried in relief. I drank deeply, desperate to end the pain and sate the monster. He initially tensed but then I felt him relax and then pull me closer. His hands wrapped around my waist, holding me securely to him. What started out as a raw painful moment suddenly became tender and warm as reason returned.
I could feel his pain and worry for me, and our shared relief that I was not dead. I was lost in the high of his blood but this brought me back to myself.
Fully realising what I was doing and who I was biting I pulled away. I was careful to extract my fangs carefully and coat the wound in saliva so that it would heal.
Abruptly I realised that I was straddling him very closely, our faces were inches apart. We were both breathing heavily, even though I no longer needed to. I was afraid of what I would find when I looked him in the eyes. Would he be disgusted, horrified by what I had just done? I was very aware of his feelings about blood-drinking- the subject had always repulsed him.
When I was finally brave enough to peek up at his expression it was not what I expected. I could see a mix of things including relief and surprise but no horror.
“I am so sorry.” I breathed. “I never wanted to do that to you.”
“It actually wasn’t as… bad as I expected.” He admitted. “It was quite… pleasant.”
“That’s just the endorphins talking.” A bite of my fangs could numb the pain and create quite pleasurable feelings. This was why I usually preferred to just scratch the feeders I used. A bite was too intimate. Of course, this time I hadn’t been in any shape to restrain myself that much.
“Oh.” His eyes were very intense when they met mine. “I am so glad that you’re ok.”
I felt an unexpected flair of nervousness. I recalled our previous conversation about how he didn’t care what I was. I wondered if it still applied.
“I-I know that this… change might have come quicker than expected. I will understand if you don’t want to… continue with our previous arrangement.” My words came out reluctantly but I had to say them. I couldn’t make any assumptions.
His brows drew together in confusion for a moment before his expression cleared. “You think I don’t want you anymore?”
“It would be completely reasonable,” And, also probably break my newly undead heart.
“Oh, Scarlett.” He sighed, “As long as you’ll have me, I’m not going anywhere. I lived without you for thirteen very long hours. I refuse to do it again.”
“Really?” My voice came out thickly. I was surprised to find that I crying.
Instead of replying he pulled me closer and kissed me, blood and fangs and all. I kissed him back joyfully, relieved beyond words that everything was ok. I could have happily stayed there all night but eventually, reality began to set in.
Reluctantly I pulled away and looked around. “Where are we?” I could feel the unmistakable pull of a graveyard all around us, but we were surrounded by bushes.
He smiled, “You remember where I brought you for our first date?”
He made air quotes around the word date. It had been nothing more than a ruse to see if I was a vampire. The cemetery was old and unused and now made up part of the park. He’d made a good choice, with the heavy rain and late hour we were much less likely to be disturbed here. People often visited the big main cemetery.
I snorted. “Well you’re consistent, I’ll give you that. Next time you really need to take me somewhere different.” I joked, just thrilled that a date was an actual real possibility.
My quip wasn’t that funny but he laughed with surprising enthusiasm. I joined in, catching his joyful mood. I got up and he followed somewhat stiffly.
“Wait,” I said, mirth suddenly vanishing. “Have you been waiting here the entire time I was… gone? You must be freezing!” He had a big coat on but I could see that the weather was terrible. It felt close to midnight and the rain was still pouring. Thankfully it wasn’t quite cold enough to snow.
“I didn’t want to leave in case you woke up whilst I was gone.” He said defensively. “I borrowed a blanket from Vanessa’s car, which I still need to return.” There was a damp looking blanket hanging over a nearby tree.
“Where are the others?” I asked, looking around as if they might be hiding in a nearby bush. I would never expect anyone to wait for me, but at the same time, I was a little hurt.
“I got a call from Amir a little while ago,” Nick said, looking pained. “At the time… we weren’t sure that you would… you know, come back. Plus, I didn’t know what kind of… state you would be in if you did. I told everyone else to wait at home and I would let them know if there was any news. Is that ok?”
I found it hard to believe he was able to keep Lillian away. She was always by my side no matter what. I voiced my concern out loud.
“Oh that’s right, you don’t know.” He looked apologetic and I instantly became alarmed.
“Don’t know what? Is she ok?”
Nick quickly held up his hands to placate me. “As far as I know she is… fine. More than fine actually, doing very well. Aside from the fact that she is probably really missing you, of course.”
“So what is it then?” I could see that my patience hadn’t been improved by death.
“Well, when you… died you did something to her. She now seems to be… alive.” He hesitated, clearly knowing his words sounded ridiculous.
I couldn’t believe that it was true. “Really? She’s alive?” The idea seemed too fantastic to be real.
“Why don’t you go and see for yourself?” He said, grinning.
The journey to my house did not take very long. We took Vanessa’s borrowed car, as Nick still needed to return it. I would have to pay for it to be cleaned, the passenger seat was covered with what I now realised was my own blood. On top of that, we were both literally coated in yet more blood and a great deal of mud. Heck, I would just buy her a new car if I had to. I was just so happy to be alive, or at least undead.
As we pulled up I could pick up my friend's voices inside with my new sensitive hearing.
To my surprise, Vanessa was still there. “I’m really sorry guys, but I think we might have to face the hard truth soon. I don’t see how she can come back again.” I quickly realised that she was talking about me.
“You don’t know that!” Lillian sounded distraught. “What if it’s like a virus? It could have still been in her system, waiting to reactivate. We already know she has a strong enough will to come back.”
“I don’t know Lil…” Amir sounded sad. “I want her to come back, I really do. But, it has been hours and we haven’t heard anything more from Nick.”
“She wouldn’t just leave me.” Lillian insisted. “Not like this.”
I couldn’t take it anymore; I pushed open the door and entered my apartment. Inside I was confronted with one of the strangest sights I had seen in centuries.
Lillian sat curled up on the sofa in a pair of my pyjamas and a dressing gown. Her curly hair was finally loose from its intricate style and fell messily around her shoulders. I had never seen her looking anything less than fabulous before, it was kind of nice.
“Of course I wouldn’t leave you,” I said, stepping into the room. “Do you think a little death is going to stop me?”
“Scarlett!” Lillian shrieked, springing to her feet and bounding into my arms.
I gripped her tightly, ignoring the temptation of her newly circulating blood. “I’m sorry I left you,” I told her sincerely. “I will try not to do it again.”
“Oh Scarlett,” She sobbed into my shoulder.
Amir approached a little more cautiously. “You’re ok?”
Nick had followed me in. “She’s ok!” I noticed that he had pulled his collar up high, hiding the wound on his neck.
I grinned. “Well I’m still dead, but I seem to be back to my original state of dead. Not that unpleasant… completely dead.” To make my point I let them catch a quick glimpse of fangs.
Vanessa looked a little worried, although I could see she was trying to put on a brave front.
“I have some bad news about your car,” I told her. It really was filthy.
She gave me a cautious smile, seemingly encouraged by the fact that I wasn’t doing anything threatening.
“Well, I have some bad news about your warehouse, so we’re probably even.”
A laugh bubbled up from my chest and suddenly everything was forgotten. If she could deal with my new blood-drinking state, I was sure we were going to be good friends.
I drew back to look better at Lillian. “I can’t believe that you’re alive!” She had always seemed real and solid to me, but there was still a clear difference.
Aside from the obvious change of clothes, there was something about her that just said living. I could smell her now, in a good way of course. My sensitive nose could pick up her unique scent which brought to mind classic English gardens and sunshine. There were hectic spots of pink on her cheeks and her eyes shone with unshed tears.
“I know! Do you think it will last?” She was still elated but I could see the real worry in her gaze.
“I hope so,” I said truthfully. “As far as I can tell, you appear to be human. Your heartbeat sounds normal.”
“That would be such a useful skill for a doctor.” Amir sighed.
Another worry crossed Lillian’s face. “Are you ok? You know, with the um, blood?” She whispered the last part but the others still caught it. Vanessa eyed me warily.
I smiled, I was still hungry but Nick’s blood was enough to keep me going. I had taken more than I should; he looked a little pale. I was far too happy to listen to temptations at that moment.
“I’m fine,” I assured her.
“But what about-?” Her eyes flicked to Nick and widened. “Oh.” She said, “I see.”
Nick took my hand silently and Lillian wisely chose not to make any more comments. I knew we would have to have a long conversation at some point, but that could wait.
We had a lot of planning to do. I had no idea of Lillian’s intentions, but at the very least I would have to get her some records and ID. I was still so excited that she would be able to exist in the world again. If she wanted to, she could get a job or go to school. That would be purely routine, of course. I was pretty sure that she had read almost everything published in the past two centuries. There was not a lot that she didn’t already know.
Despite the fact that it was still the middle of the night- prime time for me to be awake again, I was tired. Dying and un-dying and healing had taken its toll and the thought of my bed seemed very inviting. Plus, it seemed like ages since I had actually slept for any length of time. It was hard to believe that only a few days had passed since everything began. Sleep was definitely priority one.
Everything else could keep until tomorrow evening.
For now, I was simply content that everyone I loved was safe. My friends were ok and it was very possible that I had made a new one.
A small part of me regretted that I was no longer human. No matter how much I had fought against it, I had come to almost accept some things. For one, it would have made my relationship with Nick much simpler. Now, I wasn’t sure where we would go, but I was still excited to try.
Planning for the future had never been my best skill. It was much better to live in the moment, and that was exactly what I planned to do.
“Come on,” I said, “Let’s go to bed.”