Black Water

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Chapter 26

Johnny ran a hand over his face and shuddered. It had felt so real.

He remembered the aftermath of Elizabeth’s death, too. His anger. His despair. He missed her, and he missed her sweet blood which had filled him with such ecstasy since the first moment he had tasted it. If he had tried, he could have found Jack, resumed his old life, but he didn’t want to leave. He still had the lake, and Jack did not. That gave him some small satisfaction.

After he had laid Elizabeth’s dead body gently on the sand so that her family could find her, his first thought had been to kill them all. But he couldn’t. They were her family, his last connection to her.

For a time, he was like a ghost in Lockwood village, haunting the Smythe household. He wondered one night if their blood was as sweet as Elizabeth’s. He had to try. And when he found out that, yes, their blood sang to him as strongly as hers once did, he couldn’t help coming back night after night, sampling each of them as they slept. Yes, they all had the same blood, so different from their neighbors, so attractive to him.

He didn’t mean to kill them. The baby, Mary, died first, followed quickly by her mother and then the father. Elizabeth’s three brothers were stronger, but Jonathan realized it was only a matter of time before they, too, died of blood loss.

Jonathan went beneath the waters of the lake. He couldn’t bring himself to leave Lockwood, but he could sleep away the years until people had forgotten what he looked like.

Years later, when he awakened again to find the town had grown larger, he couldn’t help testing their blood to find that one delicious strain that called out to him. But he learned to be careful. Over the years the Smythes had intermarried, and some strains proved stronger than others. Jonathan tried to insert himself into town life. It was a new time, and that other Jonathan, the one who had drowned, was long forgotten. Most of the time, no one noticed anything out of the ordinary about him. But sometimes, someone would brush by him or shake his hand, and feel something. Jonathan could tell by the sudden uneasiness in their manner, and because he felt it, too.

Those, he either avoided or killed, and when he had a chance to kill one of them without risk, he reveled in the taste of their potent blood.

Not everyone feared him. That gave him hope, and kept him in the world for a period of time. It always ended badly. Jonathan’s response was to kill, to steep his sorrows in blood and then to sleep away a decade or three until the nagging urge dragged him up from the lake’s cold bottom—the urge to belong.

In his attic room, Johnny scowled. Was that what he was doing now, with Crystal and her family? Trying to fit in? He slammed his fist on the box blocking his exit. No. Crystal was different. He was different. He knew who he was now, and who he had been. Did he, though? He remembered some things, but not everything. What had happened to the other blood-drinkers in Scotland? Were any of his brothers still alive?

Shaking his head, he stood. He felt hungry, as he always did when he didn’t sleep right, but he pushed that thought to the side with the remnants of the smashed box. Without really planning it, his feet took him back to the cemetery, to the grave of Jonathan Price. He sank down until his back rested against the gravestone and he watched the sun set over the lake in the distance.

“Crystal is worried about you.”

Johnny looked up. Lisa was a shadow against the darkening sky. She sat next to him, staring out at the last red glow of the sun.

“How did you find me?”

Lisa shrugged. “I had a feeling,” she replied. “I used to come here a lot when I was younger. It’s peaceful.”

Johnny smiled. “Until I showed up.”

“Yeah,” Lisa said softly.

“I could still kill you, you know,” Johnny said, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye.

“I know.”

“The uncle doesn’t seem to think so,” Johnny continued. “He thinks he knows me.” He turned to face Lisa. “He doesn’t. He knows some things about the past that I can barely remember, and he thinks I can be bound by that. I can’t. I won’t.”

“I know,” Lisa said again. She looked steadily at the vampire until he sighed, then turned back to regard the sunset. She wasn’t afraid, although she believed Johnny when he said he could kill her. A part of her felt a little regret at the thought, now that she had finally found love again with Kenny. She also loved this vampire man-child in front of her, and it hurt her to see him suffering. “Will you come home with me?”

It was tempting. Johnny had come to love the little family life they had pieced together over the years, even with the addition of Kenny. For once, they all knew him and he didn’t have to pretend or hide. It felt good.

“In a little while,” he told Lisa, holding out a hand to help her up. “I’m hungry. Tell Crystal not to worry. I’ll be home soon.”

Johnny didn’t wait to see Lisa’s reaction. He didn’t care what she thought about his needing to feed. He was what he was.

Lisa smiled to herself as she walked up the road towards the house. Home. Johnny had said ‘home.’ She wondered if he even realized it.

Johnny ran by the place he used to live with Jack. Someone recently had used the old foundation stones and built themselves a replica log home on the exact site. He found himself growing nostalgic. How authentic was the inside? Once the sun went down, it got very dark because of all the trees. Even on the main road, there were still no street lights. A yellow glow lit the inside of the little cabin. He couldn’t see the telltale blue flicker of a television screen. Authentic indeed. Too authentic for his tastes. He liked his television.

The couple inside stared as he opened the front door, which had been latched from the inside, and walked over to the stone fireplace which they had built out of remnants of the original one. “Nice job,” he commented.

“Who are you? What do you want?” The man, a good deal older than Kenny, stood protectively in front of his wife. She had on a long skirt, and was stirring an iron pot which hung from a hook inside the fireplace.

“Don’t ask.” Johnny moved close enough to notice the trembling in not just the woman, but also in the man. He probably shouldn’t have let them see him. Too late now. Moving swiftly, he knocked the man backwards onto the trestle table in the middle of the room, spilling their supper things all over the floor. They didn’t even have a couch! Johnny’s arm swept up the woman in his forward movement, and she, too, ended up on the table. Dinner, Johnny thought irreverently, as the two lay unconscious in front of him.

Neither one of them had family blood. Johnny drank freely from both of them. The more he took, the less likely they would be to remember exactly what had happened to them. When he realized he meant to spare their lives, he laughed grimly. Was he crazy?

“This was a bad idea,” he whispered to them later, after he had rearranged them both in front of the fire and used a cloth to fan smoke from their ruined dinner into the small cabin. “You never should have come here and built this place on the old ruins. It’s haunted, and the spirits want you gone!”

He chuckled a little as he let himself out. They would eventually wake up, coughing, with sore throats from the smoke, and would find that their door was still latched from the inside. With any luck, one or the other would recall his parting words. They were true. These people were living in his old house, and he wanted them gone.

The bottom line was, he was no longer hungry, and he hadn’t killed anyone even though he could have.

It was still early, just barely past suppertime. Johnny hesitated at the door of Lisa’s house. He both anticipated and dreaded seeing Crystal, with the memory of Elizabeth’s death so fresh in his mind. There had never been any hope of changing Elizabeth, he knew that now. Jack should have told him the truth back then. It would have saved them both a lot of heartache.

Was there enough time to change Crystal? Would he be able to do it when the time came? He didn’t know. Resolutely, Johnny opened the door, using his own key which Crystal had given him.

“Hurry up, you’re going to miss the show!” Crystal called to him from the living room. She had popcorn and was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of his favorite chair. Johnny slid into his seat and tousled Crystal’s hair. Lisa sat with Kenny on the sofa and, surprisingly, Uncle Robert sat next to them as well. The VCR whirred, and Johnny saw Crystal’s class on the auditorium stage. It was the Thanksgiving performance. Crystal turned to him and grinned. “Uncle Robert wanted to see it,” she explained.

Johnny’s eyes caught Uncle Robert’s across the room. The uncle’s were wide upon seeing the vampire, and Johnny unconsciously licked his lips in case there was blood or something on them. “You’re in for a treat,” he said, straight-faced, and Crystal punched him in the knee. If anything, the uncle looked even more shocked.

Uncle Robert was Johnny’s connection to a past and a place he had all but forgotten. Johnny was pretty sure the uncle hadn’t told him everything he knew about Scotland. For Crystal’s sake, Johnny needed to find out if any of the other vampires had survived. If that meant being nice to Uncle Robert, then so be it. He smiled at the uncle, careful not to show teeth. “I was just kidding,” he said. “The kids put on a really good show. I was there, helping out backstage.”

Uncle Robert glanced at his nephew for confirmation, and Kenny nodded, his arms folded across his chest, struggling not to laugh at the expression on his uncle’s face.

“You really are nothing like I expected,” Uncle Robert said to Johnny.

“Shhh!” whispered Crystal. “It’s starting.”

Kenny laughed out loud.

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