The next day was very hectic for everyone. Melissa had a very busy day at her college classes, especially since she had to make up for a couple of tests she had flunked and an algebra test that was particularly difficult. Part of her was grateful for the busy day, considering the fact that it gave her something to focus on and, since she believed she had an Ace in the hole now, it gave her a renewed sense of energy to focus on her studies.
She was going to become mortal again soon, a regular human. She just knew it.
In the meantime, things were chaotic at the Green Household. Rachel received stitches and the first in a series of rabies shots, since the doctors knew she had apparently been attacked by some kind of animal. They theorized it was a bear or a very large dog. They had no idea if it was rabid or not and they wanted to take precautions.
They kept her at the hospital for observation throughout the night and the better part of the day. They wanted to keep an eye on her in case there was any kind of infection or other complications. Rachel also ended up being given blood; she had lost a fair amount before getting to the hospital.
Back at the Green household, Richard Green finally returned home after he had returned to his human form. When he walked in through the door, Mae saw for herself that he was not quite himself; he seemed very confused about what was going on and even seemed to have memory problems.
“I think things are starting to get to me,” he told her. “All those years ago, I always had a clear head and I knew exactly what I was doing and what I was aiming for. Now… I can’t even remember what I’m doing when I’m a wolf. I don’t even know anymore.”
Mae, who was suffering partially from a nasty hangover, was horrified. “You can’t remember what you did last night?” she asked.
“No, I really can’t,” the bearded man said, beginning to pace the living room anxiously. “All that I remember is my blood burning, and biting into something.”
That was when Mae gasped in horror, and made the immediate assumption that her own husband had bitten their niece. To make matters worse, Richard honestly could not tell her if he had bitten Rachel or not; he remembered nothing. Mae flinched away from him and locked herself into her bedroom. She had created a complete monster, and it was all her fault.
When Rachel was finally released from the hospital, it was late in the evening; an ambulance dropped her off and an attendant assisted her to the door where her Aunt took her inside. At first, Mae tried to brush off everything that happened and help her up to bed, but Rachel insisted on knowing more about what happened.
“Aunt Mae, I can tell you’re hiding something from me,” Rachel said. “You act all nervous and hyper and keep changing the subject. I want to know what you’re not telling me and I want to know now. I’m not five years old, you know.”
Eventually the two women ended up sitting on the couch, sipping tea and nibbling on cookies. Aunt Mae had put some tea together in an effort to calm herself a little more and to collect her thoughts. Then, while Rachel ate, Aunt Mae told her everything that transpired.
“So… you think Uncle Richard bit me?” she asked.
“I think he did, Dear,” Mae swallowed. “We think… he’s too far gone to the curse.”
They talked about it further as they finished their tea and cookies, Rachel being extra careful because of her stitches and bandages. When they finally finished, Rachel asked the question that they both had been avoiding. “Am I gonna turn into a werewolf?”
Mae practically sobbed in response.
Rachel leaned closer to her Aunt and attempted to comfort her, placing an arm around her shoulders. “Where is he?” she whispered. “What’s he gonna do?”
Mae continued to cry. “It’s all my fault… it’s all my fault…” she blubbered.
Eventually Rachel managed to console her, soothing her to the point where she could speak. “Your Uncle has realized he can no longer control himself,” Mae sniffled. “He doesn’t even know if he will hurt anyone. He may have already hurt someone besides you. He is nothing but a beast now when he becomes a wolf.”
“There must be something we can do,” Rachel whispered. She did not need her vision to know that her Aunt was in distress. The realization that Rachel herself would become a werewolf eventually left the blind girl numb inside; it was too much to grasp, too soon. Part of her was still trying to accept that fact that vampires and werewolves even existed. The fact that she could easily become one was too much for her mind to accept now. She did not even want to think about it.
However, her Aunt and Uncle had clearly been thinking about it. “He’s going to give himself up to your vampire friend,” Mae sniffled. “I helped him chain himself to something in the basement; that is where he is right now. He is going to stay there until tonight, and he only hopes that he won’t be able to break out. He wants you to bring your vampire friend down to… end the curse for you and the other girl; I told him about Melissa.” She sobbed again. “He is so ashamed of himself for infecting you and another innocent girl.”
“But… that means Travis will die,” Rachel whispered. She didn’t know him very well, and she knew that he could not be cured of vampirism, but he truly did have a good heart. It did not seem fair that he should have to die.
“If he’s your friend, he’ll do it,” Mae stated with certainty. “And if he wants to do what is best for society at large, he will do it. We’ll be rid of one less vampire, and we won’t have to deal with this werewolf curse any longer.”
“But he’s a good vampire,” Rachel insisted. “He could have hurt me any time, but he hasn’t.”
“He’s a leech on society,” Mae insisted grimly. “He will only continue to drink the blood of humanity if he is allowed to continue like this.”
“Your Aunt Mae is right, you know.”
Rachel frowned. She and Travis were seated on the top porch step outside the house again, unaware that Melissa was hiding in the nearby rose bushes. The werewolf was listening to every word.
“But it’s just not fair!” Rachel exclaimed, wrapping her arms around her waist. “Nobody deserves to die, not even you.”
Travis sighed and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “That’s kind of you to say, but… there are some entities that don’t deserve kindness.”
“But you are kind.”
“Just because I have a conscience, it doesn’t mean that I should be allowed to continue my existence. I will only hurt people.”
“What happened last night?” Rachel demanded. “I was attacked by my Uncle, and… where did you go?”
“I had to pull myself away from you,” Travis admitted. “I stole a cell phone and called an ambulance once I was far enough away. But… I had to tear myself away from you and your blood.”
“I was bleeding,” Rachel said, sounding thoughtful. “And you still didn’t hurt me? That means you do have self-control, right? You deserve a chance to live!”
“No, I don’t. It was very, very difficult for me to do that, Rachel. I had to fight against every instinct in me.”
“But you still managed to do it. You are a good vampire!”
In the bushes, Melissa had to try very hard to conceal an impatient snarl. She simply wanted them to get on with this one way or another. If they thought that her Uncle did the dirty deed, then that worked just fine in her favor. Nevertheless, she wanted them to hurry up and kill the rat-scallion so that she could return to normal.
“It wouldn’t do any good to take chances,” Travis insisted firmly. “Rachel, you are a wonderful person and you deserve to live your life to its fullest. But me… I do not deserve any more chances. I have killed people already, and I need to atone for that.”
“You already killed the vampire that killed my parents…”
“But I will continue to kill humans for their blood.”
“Couldn’t we get you blood from a blood bank or something?”
Travis paused. Evidently, he had not thought of that option himself before. “No,” he finally said, shaking his head. “Like I said, it’s best not to risk it.”
Rachel heaved a sigh. “Why are you being so stubborn about this?” she snapped, stamping her foot on one of the lower steps below her. “You’re the one who told me that I needed to get on with life. That it was worth living. Now you just want to throw your own life away.”
“Because you are not a monster!” Travis said more harshly than he intended. “Why is this so difficult for you to understand?”
“Because you have a good heart! And I want you to stay with me!”
Travis practically snarled through his teeth. “I need to feed soon,” he stated. “I’ve already gone longer than I should have without blood. Werewolf blood has a foul scent; I could tell each time I have been near one. I need to be especially thirsty before I can be sure I’ll drink an entire body’s worth.”
“Travis…” Rachel clung to his arm and rested her head against his shoulder. “Please don’t do this.”
“I must,” he said. “I want a noble death, one that means something. I must take care of your Uncle, and… myself… before the night is over.”
He leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Rachel, you have been the one bright spot in my entire existence as a vampire.”
She sniffled, and she buried her face against him. “You’re my friend,” she whispered as the tears began to flow. His cloth shirt absorbed some of them; others were free to roll down her cheeks. “And I don’t want to lose you or my Uncle.”
“This is for the best, trust me.” Travis wrapped his arms around her and held her close. For a long moment neither of them moved. Neither of them wanted to move.
Eventually, Travis stirred. “I must go, sweetheart,” he whispered to her. She clung to him for a moment, longing for him to stay. There was just something about him that made her wish that things could have been different.
If only things had been different. Perhaps in another time or another place, things could have been different. However, wishing for such things was not going to change the unfortunate circumstances.
“Be good for your Aunt,” Travis requested. “Forgive her for her faults, and… promise me you will live life the best you can.”
She nestled against him. “I promise,” she whispered. “But before you go…”
He remained silent, patiently waiting for her to continue. It seemed as though she was trying to form a request.
“I want to see your face,” she finally stated.
“But… you’re blind,” Travis said, shaking his head slightly in puzzlement.
“Not with my eyes,” Rachel corrected. She drew back just enough to raise her hands. “It’s something that Aunt Mae told me. I want to see your face, through touch.”
Comprehension dawned upon the vampire. He gently touched her wrists and guided her hands to his face, allowing her to touch him. She felt his forehead, his cheeks, his nose, his mouth and chin, and her delicate fingertips even touched his eyelids, gently.
When she was finished, she removed her hands from his and began to touch her own face, as if making a comparison.
“What do you think?” Travis asked curiously. His voice was so quiet and so thick with emotion that it held a gravelly quality.
“You feel so different,” she admitted. “I mean… I don’t even know how to say it.”
“Try,” Travis encouraged her. “Tell me what your hands made you see.”
“Well… you feel unnatural. Cold and hard, almost like…”
“I’m dead, but not dead?”
“Yeah, that’s kind of how it is… at least I think so.” Rachel shook her head slightly. “Then again, I’m not sure. I’ve never touched a dead person, so I have nothing to compare it to.”
“Then consider yourself fortunate.”
They fell silent once again. “I guess my Uncle has turned into a werewolf by now,” Rachel mused. Then her forehead crinkled as her brow furrowed. “Hey, how come I haven’t turned into a werewolf yet? It’s night out, isn’t it?”
“I’m no expert, but it could depend on a number of things,” Travis mused thoughtfully. “I think it may simply take a little longer for the curse to finalize itself in some people. I’m not sure why, perhaps some human spirits are more resilient than others.”
Melissa had her own theory. She was a much newer werewolf, while Richard Green had been one for a long time. A newer werewolf’s venom was not as potent as that of an older werewolf. Of course, she was not going to say anything, but she figured that poor Rachel might have one or two nights left as a regular human.
This way, everyone still wins, she thought, keeping very sill in her hiding place nearby. They both know the threat exists, but Rachel will be spared these horrors. Once I’m human again, it’s doubtful that the curse I put into her would stay within her. She will be cured just like me.
“So I get to be human for at least another night, while this curse finalizes itself,” Rachel deduced.
“That’s my theory, at least,” Travis said with a slight shrug. “I don’t know, I think the older we cursed folks get, the more potent our venom gets. I suppose that’s another reason why I’m happy to die young.”
“Please don’t say stuff like that,” Rachel sighed, moving close against him again. “You’re starting to make me feel bad for… being cursed.”
Travis wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly; she returned the hug eagerly. “Don’t worry about it, sweetheart,” he whispered into her ear. “Soon this will all be over and you will be just fine.”
“But you won’t.”
“This is for the best. You have to believe that.” He untangled himself from her and pulled back. She attempted to cling to him, but he gently grabbed her forearms and set her hands on her lap. “Please believe it, for me,” he told her as he stared into her unseeing, unfocused eyes. “This is for the best.”
Her lower lip trembled. “I want to believe it,” she whispered. “Okay, maybe I do believe it… up here.” She tapped the side of her head. “But, I don’t have to believe it… or feel it, in here.” She placed her hands on her chest, right over her heart.
The vampire placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “You are a good person,” he told her. “Don’t ever forget that. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Travis slowly rose to his full height. He stared down at her in thoughtful silence for a long moment. She held out her hand toward him and he touched it gently. Very slowly, he began to move away from her, toward the front door. Both of their arms stretched as he took tiny steps, allowing them to maintain contact for as long as possible. Finally, he was almost out of her reach; he hesitated as only their fingertips touched, and then they brushed against each other as they broke contact.
With that, he turned away and looked at the door; he did not trust himself to turn back. He tried to ignore the soft cries she made as she began to mourn for him and her Uncle.
She does not need to mourn for me, Travis thought as he opened the door and walked into the house. I do not deserve it.
Mae Green appeared as he entered the living room. She quickly ushered him toward the basement, causing him to fill his lungs with oxygen and release the air in a heavy sigh. At least that was one factor of humanity he could still imitate.
“Let us proceed,” he said stoically.
The sight of Richard Green in the basement was not something to behold. He was in full werewolf form and he struggled against his restraints like a crazed, wild animal. Obviously, he had no self-control whatsoever any longer, which simply reconfirmed that he needed to be put down.
Mae remained upstairs at Travis’s insistence. She had thought about coming down during this, but there was no need to put her in danger. Besides, it was hard to tell if he was powerful enough to break the chains, there was no telling what a feral, cured creature could do.
The way to Hell is paved with good intentions, Travis thought as he contemplated the snarling, hissing creature before him. Indeed, it felt as though he was staring into the face of a demon, a spawn of the devil himself. And to think that he and his wife did this just to take down another monster.
It did not seem right that anyone should have to die for such foolish choices. Yet there were some mistakes that should never have been made in the first place. There would always be some consequences in life that were irreversible in easy, painless ways.
Travis sighed deeply again and closed his eyes. He could feel the burning in his throat, and in his stomach. He needed blood, and soon. Even the horrible stench of a werewolf was starting to appeal to his need. His sensitive nose could detect the more succulent humans upstairs, but he forced himself to ignore them. They were not meals for his taking. The only one he could safely touch was the werewolf himself.
This was true justice. One murderer taking out another, one monster preparing to destroy another.
He opened his eyes, and found himself staring deeply into the reddened eyes of the hairy creature before him. Richard never spoke; he only snarled and growled like a beast that had lost its mind. Yet now he seemed to stare at the vampire expectantly, as if waiting for something.
Did Richard still have just enough of his humanity left to request death in his own silent fashion? Travis could not be sure.
Let it be done, Travis decided, and he closed the distance between himself and the werewolf in a single stride. He hesitated just long enough to stroke the long, shaggy fur on the beast’s neck.
Then he opened his mouth wide and sank his pearly white fangs into the beast, causing the werewolf to howl and strain against his chains. Travis threw his arms around the beast’s neck and held on tightly, restraining his movement further.
Keep drinking, Travis ordered himself as the foul-tasting blood oozed into his mouth. He continued to suck and to swallow, forcing himself to drain every bit of the blood from the werewolf’s body. It burned as it slid down his throat and it caused his stomach to ache. His instinct for self-preservation screamed at him to stop, to pull away and to try to vomit the cursed blood. Nevertheless, he forced himself to keep going, knowing that he was doing this for Melissa and especially for Rachel and her Aunt. He had to end the curse, and he had to keep everyone else safe.
Finally when it was over, the werewolf’s form sagged against the restraints, and he did not move again. Pain exploded throughout Travis’s body as the cursed blood collided and intermingled with his own vampirical curse, causing him to writhe.
The last thing he saw was Richard’s form morph back into that of a regular man, albeit a dead one. The curse was broken.
Travis smiled, and then his own form went rigid. His body became hardened like stone and brittle like glass; he fell backward and then he shattered into a million pieces.