“I still don’t trust him,” Lillian muttered after Nick left.
I blinked, focusing on her. I still hadn’t gotten used to my new poorer vision; it was like there was constantly something in my eye interfering with me seeing things. In reality, I guessed it was probably average eyesight for a human. After so long with vampiric abilities, it was difficult for me to remember how it had felt to be human the first time around. The loss of my sensitive sense of smell was very disconcerting, it was like all the detail had been sucked from the world.
Amir got to his feet. “I’ll make some tea. Scarlett?”
I looked up in surprise; it suddenly occurred to me that if I was in fact mortal I would need to attend to other needs again. Eating and drinking were basics.
“Um… yes, I guess. I will try some tea please.” I thought it best to start small.
He smiled warmly at me, sensing my discomfort. “Do you know if you take milk and sugar?”
“I don’t know…” I frowned, confused.
“Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.” He assured me as he went into the kitchen to search for supplies.
I got up from my seat and stretched, finding that my limbs had grown stiff from the lack of movement. As a vampire, I could have sat in exactly the same position for hours and remained perfectly comfortable. I also realised that I was… cold. I was still wearing my clothes from the day before.
“I am going to change,” I told them, leaving and heading to my basement room. I selected a pair of jeans with a t-shirt and a thick green turtleneck. Unlike before, my body actually appreciated the warmth of the fluffy material. As I headed back into the living room I stopped to examine the thermostat I had never used.
“Amir,” I called, “How do you work this temperature thing?”
He appeared from the kitchen carrying mugs of tea. “You just turn the dial up or down. I turned it up a little yesterday when it was really cold in here.”
I didn’t mind, I had already given him permission to make himself at home in our apartment. Following his advice I turned the little dial a few degrees higher, wishing to get rid of the chill in the air.
Walking to the window I pulled the curtain slowly to the side, revealing a thin line of sunlight. When I felt no pain I pushed both curtains fully open, looking into midday sun for the first time in centuries. Although I wanted to flinch away out of habit the light was nice, pleasant even.
Whilst I did love being a vampire, sunlight was something I hadn’t fully realised I had missed. On impulse I left my apartment, pausing at the front door of my house. Although I had seen that the light filtering through the window didn’t hurt me, I was still a little cautious about going outside. Lillian had followed me.
“Go on,” She said, “May as well enjoy this while it lasts. When was the last time you saw proper sunlight and were able to enjoy it?”
“It’s been a long time,” I admitted.
Taking a steadying breath I opened the door and stepped into the light. The street was deserted save for a flock of pigeons on a neighbouring house. The winter air was chilly, making me wrap my arms around myself but the sky was clear and blue.
There was no trace of the rain from the previous day, aside from a slight dampness to the ground and a freshness to the air. The old currently leafless tree at the end of our garden swayed softly in the breeze. Lillian stood in the doorway, watching me but letting me have my moment.
I tilted my head back slowly and closed my eyes. The sun’s rays were weak but I could feel them on my skin. It felt nice, peaceful. I ignored the sound of an engine moving up the street until it stopped a few meters away and I heard Nicks voice.
“I’m back.” He called, moving towards me.
I opened my eyes and blinked. I had never seen him in bright daylight before, artificial light and late evening sunlight yes, but this was different. His skin had the kind of tan earned from spending time outdoors and his dark hair and eyes shone with highlights I hadn’t noticed before.
“Hello,” I said.
He was looking down at me with a peculiar expression. “What are you doing?” He asked.
I shook my head, moving back towards the house. “Nothing, I just… I wanted to feel the sun. It’s nice.”
He followed me, carrying a large bag I assumed contained the books he had gone to collect. Lillian was back in the living room talking to Amir. They both looked up as we entered.
“Scarlett I put your tea over there.” He told me, pointing to the coffee table.
“Thank you,” I murmured, moving to pick up the mug. The warmth felt nice on my fingers.
Nick carried the bag over to the small dining table and began pulling out books and papers.
“I grabbed anything that looked even kind of relevant. It’s not all in English though so I am not sure how helpful it is. I have my laptop too; I figured there might be something on the internet that could help.”
Amir moved to look at the materials, appearing fascinated. I had forgotten how much he loved anything academic.
“There is a lot of stuff here.”
I took a cautious sip of my tea, finding that I liked the sweet flavour.
“There is a lot, we could divide it up and start looking through it?” I looked at Nick for confirmation.
He nodded “Yeah, sounds like a plan.”
The next couple of hours passed surprisingly swiftly with us all looking through books. At first, I was hopeful that we would find an answer quickly and have this problem solved within the day. After a while, I would have been grateful for anything useful at all. I leaned back in my chair and sighed.
“I am not getting anywhere.”
Nick was sitting on the floor nearby with his things spread out on the coffee table. “Me neither. This stuff is mostly focused on getting rid of witchcraft, not how it works.”
My stomach growled loud enough for everyone to hear. “Plus I feel… strange.”
“You’re probably hungry.” Amir noted, “You haven’t eaten anything.”
I frowned towards my kitchen. “I don’t think I have any useful food.”
Nick pulled out his phone. “I could order pizza?”
Amir agreed so I nodded. “Sure, why not?”
When the food arrived I was sceptical. I had never really tried pizza, it was unheard of when I was human the first time around and as a vampire food had no value or real taste.
It turned out that pizza was one of the best things ever invented.
“This is the best.” I declared, making my way through my fourth slice.
The others were watching me with amusement. Lillian alone seemed unconvinced, “It doesn’t look that great to me.”
I shook my head, “I had my doubts but trust me, it’s good.” She smiled at me but there was a hint of sadness in her eyes.
Abruptly I felt bad; I had something that she could never have- another chance at being alive. I had no doubt that she would seize any kind of chance at living, given the opportunity.
After we had finished eating we launched back into the research with renewed vigour. I poured over an ancient book written in Latin whilst Lillian and Amir shared a book written in Sanskrit and Nick tried to decipher some sort of scroll written in very old English.
My book was a detailed history of witchcraft as seen by the author, someone called Abelardus. I sensed that it was a fairly biased account of the events since the main focus seemed to be on the evil nature of the witches involved and how they were captured. I hoped that perhaps it might mention somewhere some sort of spell that resembled my experience.
On a separate piece of paper, I had noted everything I knew so far. It was a short list; I knew that the spell had somehow caused me to change from vampire to human. It had involved a bitter powder and seemed to have some connection to sunrise. None of these things had been mentioned in the book so far. The closest I had found was a vague reference to sunrise being related to new beginnings and protection. It didn’t specify if that had any specific use in spell casting and I sensed that perhaps it related more to the human author’s fear of the things that lurked in the dark of night.
Hours passed and I found myself growing tired. I realised that I hadn’t actually slept for almost a full day since I hadn’t gone to bed and slept through the day like I normally did. I didn’t count the time I spent unconscious as sleep, it had not been restful at all. I blinked to clear my vision and yawned.
“I am exhausted,” I admitted. Nick and Amir nodded in agreement, even Lillian looked like she could use a break.
“I think that maybe we should stop for today,” Nick suggested. “We aren’t going to get anywhere if we are too tired to understand what we are reading.”
I reluctantly agreed. I would have to accept that this problem was going to take longer to fix than I first hoped.
“I had a thought,” said Amir. “I don’t know how stupid it is.”
I felt a small flicker of hope. “At this point, I will consider anything, tell me.”
He looked a little uncomfortable to have everyone’s attention suddenly focused on him.
“Well… if you really do want to be a vampire again, wouldn’t the easiest method be to just go and ask a vampire to turn you back? Like as in the traditional way, without the witchcraft and stuff?”
I smiled despite the feeling of the hope disappearing. “I thought about that already. I don’t think it is a good idea. For a start, if I go near any vampire in this city and they realise how weak I am, chances are they will just kill me so they can take control of the city. In the unlikely event that I find someone willing to change me back… it might not work.”
Nick looked curious. “Why not?”
“Well I wasn’t exactly a normal vampire to start with, I don’t remember how I was turned but I don’t know if it was the same as what is usually done. The only time I ever tried to turn someone myself… well, you all know what happened.”
At various points, I had filled them all in on the story. The man I had tried to turn had died. I shook my head, pushing the memory away.
“I don’t know if whatever I am is… compatible with others. Plus, there is the real possibility that whatever curse I am under will prevent me from turning back. You have to die to become a vampire, what if I didn’t wake up again? I may not want to be human, but I don’t want to die either.”
Nick appeared troubled. Amir frowned as he probably contemplated the scientific implications of my words.
Lillian shook her head looking distressed. “I don’t care what happens, you are not dying.” She declared.
I had to smile at her. “Don’t worry, I don’t plan on it.”
“Hey, I just thought. What are you going to do about the other vampires? Won’t they expect to see you?” Lillian’s unease grew. “You are supposed to be leading them and everything.”
I waved my phone at her. “Already taken care of. I sent a message to Adam to say that I have had to take an unexpected but very important business trip. He believes that I have left the city so nobody will expect to see me in person for now.”
“Who’s Adam?” Nick cut in.
I raised an eyebrow at his concern. “He’s my PA.”
“Oh, right.” He muttered.
Lilian looked relieved, “Well at least we don’t have to deal with that problem for a while. If you are up and around during the daytime you will be highly unlikely to run into any vampires.”
Nick got to his feet with a yawn. “I should probably go. I need to get back and check on Angela anyway. My mum has been pretty obsessive with watching her ever since Scarlett visited the other day but… I want to make sure she is ok. This whole ghost thing is so confusing.” He paused and glanced at Lillian, “No offence.”
She glared, although I had noticed that over the course of the day she had lost some of her hostility towards him. “None taken,” she said primly.
I rose from my seat and stretched. “I’ll walk you out,” I told Nick.
He glanced around the room at the scattered books and papers. “Is it ok if I leave this stuff here for now? I would rather not carry it back and forth.”
I glanced at Lillian and shrugged, it didn’t matter to me. Plus his sentence implied that he would be coming back, a small part of me (that I tried to ignore) liked that.
I followed him out of the apartment and into the main hallway of the house. Just before we reached the front door I spoke. “Nick?”
He turned to look at me. “Yes?”
I hesitated before blurting out, “Why are you helping me?”
He moved nearer and tucked an errant strand of my hair behind my ear, softly brushing my cheek as he did so.
“You asked me to.”
I was so surprised when he touched me that I flinched slightly. I looked down at my feet, embarrassed by my displays of emotion earlier in the day. I had felt so lost and helpless but for some reason, my first instinct had been to go to Nick for help. I was fully aware of the fact that he could have had another go at killing me whilst I was vulnerable but, something told me that he wouldn’t do that. I was human now; I fell into the category of people he was trying to protect. Still, it didn’t make sense that he would be supporting my efforts to become a vampire again.
“I still don’t understand it.” I admitted, “Why do you support me wanting to be a vampire again?”
He ran a hand through his hair stressed. “Honestly? I don’t. When I first realised what had happened… I thought it was a miracle; the thought of a cure for vampirism?” His face showed how great he thought that was. “But then I realised how… unhappy you are. I am sure that you are going to be pursuing this with or without me. It seemed like I should help.”
“And if you manage to figure out the cure along the way it’s all good, right?” I said, “You can go on a new mission; curing the evil undead instead of killing us?”
Something in my tone put him on edge; I could see it in his eyes.
“Maybe we should cross that bridge if we come to it,” he said neutrally.
We stared at each other for a long moment, weighing each other up.
“Fine,” I said finally, a little too much irritation in my voice.
Something about my reaction must have amused him in some way because he suddenly broke out into a grin.
“I should go.” He told me. “I… I could come back tomorrow?”
“Fine.” I said again, making his grin widen.
He opened the front door and stepped out, letting a blast of icy air into the hallway. I wrapped my arms around myself to keep warm.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” He called as I shut the door after him, making sure that it locked firmly.