I lay on my side in the darkened bedroom watching Andrew intently as he tried fitfully and unsuccessfully to sleep.
The features of his handsome face were drawn and pinched and his hands were tightly balled up into fists as they lay up above the covers. He growled something inarticulate deep in his throat and I saw the muscles of his arms and chest tense as if anticipating an attack.
My inhuman senses easily discerned his rapid and panicked heart rate, caught the sour tang of fear lacing his sweat and tracked the pattern of his shifting eyes as they raced from side to side under the fragile-looking skin of his lids. I slowly eased up onto my right elbow and leaned back, knowing full well what was coming next.
Andrew’s lips drew back from his teeth in a blatant show of aggression as his hands shot out in front of him and he began to grapple fiercely with an invisible foe. He thrashed wildly from side to side grunting with exertion until finally he sat bolt upright, his eyes wide and staring, breathing hard.
It took him a full ten seconds to register where he was and with a frustrated sigh he cradled his head in his hands. “Dammit,” he swore under his breath.
“Andrew?” I gently reached over and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
He flinched. “Sorry.” He turned to face me and I saw the haunted look in his eyes. “I didn’t mean to wake you. I was just…having trouble sleeping.”
“You didn’t wake me; I don’t really need to sleep anymore.” And neither do you, was the unspoken subtext.
A muscle in his jaw jumped and I knew that I had inadvertently struck a nerve. “Come here.” I tried to take him in my arms but he resisted and made a hasty move away from me. I felt a pang of fear worm its way into my belly as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and began to put on his jeans. For weeks now I had sensed that Andrew had been pulling away from me though I had tried hard to deny it or had characterized it as just part of his adjusting to life as an immortal.
The signs had begun innocently enough.
While our immortal bodies did not require regular sleep, Andrew had engaged in the activity out of habit, as he put it. I had not pressed the issue and figured that it would be beneficial in terms of gradually acclimating himself to his new nature, and that as time progressed he would no longer need to sleep. His sleep had been uneasy at the beginning then fitful, and it was at this point that he began to experience troubling dreams that bordered on nightmarish. I suspected that it was his body’s way of informing him that sleep was no longer a necessity, a sure sign that his immortal nature was well and truly established.
Despite these setbacks he kept a rigid schedule and set aside no fewer than six hours a day for sleep, even though there were times that he had to force himself to drift off into unconsciousness. I never let on that anything was amiss and simply joined him, determined to keep watch in case the situation grew worse, which it invariably did. Weeks of seeing him agitated and distant like this coupled with tonight’s events finally caused all the pieces to click into place: Andrew insisted on maintaining as human-like behavior as he could because the idea of immortality was too much for him to bear.
In the weeks since he had begun maintaining these practices, I had noticed subtle changes in his personality that were now very concerning. While normally shy and quiet he had been given to bouts of silence that would last for hours, sometimes days. He continued to help run the family business yet it had become his habit of late to let the other employees and I handle the face-to-face details with the client while he busied himself with the paperwork aspect. He spent less and less time with his family and at times would put off returning calls or messages for as long as possible. He had systematically begun to put distance between himself and everyone that he knew or associated with, which included myself.
I said nothing about this despite my misgivings, hoping that he would either feel comfortable opening up to me or that whatever was bothering him would eventually pass. But it never did and now I was truly scared.
He yanked on a dark t-shirt a little too forcefully and then grabbed his running shoes from their customary spot near the nightstand. I caught a small flash of cold steel as he pocketed the switchblade he always carried with him—a relic from his first kill—and my heart sank even further.
This was the third time this week that Andrew had gone out hunting alone.
Typically we could go days or even weeks without feeding if the life force of a victim was particularly strong, and the fact that this pattern of feeding coincided with his nightmares was not a good sign. I had watched this silent ritual of his for the past two nights while pretending to be asleep for fear that my suspicions were true yet silently praying that I was mistaken, but now I knew for certain: Andrew was experiencing a crisis over his immortal nature and was taking out his anger and frustration on whatever victims his path happened to cross.
“I need some air. I’ll be back soon.” He zipped up his navy blue hoodie and strode quickly to the door.
I hurriedly scrambled out of bed, the sheets trailing behind me like so many ghosts who still haunted my past. “Andrew, wait. We need to talk.”
He paused but did not turn around. I could see his profile in stark contrast to the pale green walls of the bedroom and his posture was tense, defensive almost. “Later. Right now I need to just…I need some space.”
And with that he was gone and I was left standing in the middle of the room with nothing but the slow whir of the ceiling fan and the sound of his rapidly-retreating footsteps as he jogged down the short driveway towards his truck. A minute later I heard the engine roar to life and then he was backing out and heading down the street towards the east, the rough section of town.
I wrapped my arms around me but it did little to throw off the chills that were racing down my spine as I stared around at the room that held so many mementos from the first six months of our lives together. The photograph of Andrew and I watching the fireworks display at the local fairgrounds last November, a pile of loose change and two ticket stubs from the latest movie that we had gone to see together—all of it reminded me of what we had and taunted me with what we were so close to losing.
This room, which had seen so much happiness at the start of our relationship, now felt as lifeless as a tomb.
I drew my robe over me with shaking fingers and padded down the hallway towards the kitchen. Andrew’s cellphone lay on the counter and I picked it up. The battery had drained down to nothing and it lay there empty and dead in my palm.
Whatever alchemical and spiritual bond that had existed between us prior to his transference had been replaced by another, more base connection. I was at a loss to understand why, but from what I could surmise it was due in large part to the fact that he had died and his soul had fled his body at the moment of death. It was at that point that whatever connection had existed between us had been abruptly and violently severed, and when I had managed to resurrect him with my blood we were now linked solely by this primal base bond. We were essentially blind and deaf to one another, as I was no longer aware of his thoughts or feelings the same way that he was unaware of mine.
But he’s dead to you already—you should have left him alone when he was still capable of being saved.
I stifled a sob and clutched the phone in my hand so hard that the screen split and cracked. “Shit.” I hurriedly placed it back on the counter knowing full well that Andrew wouldn’t care, much less notice that it was damaged.
I sat down on one of the stools and watched the minutes tick by with agonizing slowness as I waited for him to return.here…