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Nashville After Dark
Dead Man's Party
“Okay. I screwed up. I know this. But you have no idea! You have, you have no idea what happened to me or what I was feeling!”
Buffy: The Vampire Slayer- Dead Man's Party
I approached the building slowly, not sure what to expect. I’d gotten word that the people I’d been searching for would be here, I just didn’t know if they knew I was coming. The whole situation smelled like a set up, and I didn’t want to get myself killed looking for whoever had kidnapped my boyfriend.
Almost a week ago most of his unit had been found slaughtered just north of the river. A couple of guys were still missing, my lover among them, and I was holding out hope that he was alive. Every time my friends tried to tell me he could be dead I went to continue the search.
Then I’d gotten an anonymous tip that he was being held in this warehouse. While the lead seemed credible enough, I’d been screwed before by info that looked this good. So, caution was the word of the night.
After what seemed like a long time I reached the end of the building and peeked around the corner. There was only one guard, and he looked human. He did, however, have a gun.
I stooped to pick up a rock and tossed it across the parking lot. Not surprisingly, a moment later the gun was pointing in that direction. A few quick steps and I went airborne, hitting him on the back of the neck with my foot. He fell to the floor, unconscious but still breathing.
Melting against the wall, I waited in silence to see if anyone had heard him fall. Minutes crawled by, but no one came to his aid. I edged along the wall to the door and shot a quick look inside. The warehouse looked deserted, and mostly empty.
In the middle of the room stood a large metal container of some kind. There wasn’t much light, but from what I could see there was a door with a small window set high in it. After a quick look around, I sprinted across the room, thankful that I’d gotten pretty serious about my training during the last few months. In seconds I was at the door peering through the thick glass.
To my relief, my lover was inside and he didn’t seem to be hurt much. When he saw me he jumped to his feet and rushed toward the door. I could tell that he didn’t like the fact I was there, but from inside his cage there was nothing he could do about it. I’d let him yell at me later, when we were both home and safe.
I heard a noise behind me, but I spun too late. I felt the sting of a dart high on my back, and even as I reached to pull it out I felt the drug taking over my body. It was too strong, even for me. I couldn’t fight it, not for long.
As I slid to the ground I could hear my boyfriend pounding on the inside of his metal cage. I heard footsteps coming toward me, but I didn’t have enough control over my body to move my head. By the time the footsteps reached me, I was unconscious.
I woke to the distant sound of metal grating against metal. I could smell human blood, but it wasn’t mine. As I moved slowly toward consciousness, I realized that I could hear a rhythmic noise of some sort, almost like a heartbeat. I shifted a little on the hard steel floor, and the rhythm jumped dramatically.
I put the sound out of my mind for the time being and focused on my body. I was sore all over, as if I’d been beaten from head to toe with a blunt instrument. On the other hand, I felt stronger and better than I’d ever felt in my life.
Abruptly I remembered the cage I’d found my boyfriend in and the dart that had robbed me of consciousness. I moved to sit up, but although I’d expected something to restrain me, I managed to rise unhindered.
The sound of grating metal caught my attention only a moment after the rhythmic sound stepped up its tempo. As I turned to identify the sound I realized that it was in fact a heartbeat, my lover’s heartbeat, and from the sounds of it he was afraid of me.
He was chained against the wall with his arms out to his sides. His clothing was dirty and matted with blood, both dried and fresh. His blond hair fell over his forehead, nearly obscuring the fear in his hazel eyes as he stared at me.
Hunger nearly overwhelmed me as the blood smell filled my being. I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t like it, but I was inexorably drawn across the room to my boyfriend’s side.
“Stay back,” he ordered harshly, hate and fear warring on his face. He pulled at the chains that held him, but he wasn’t strong enough to break them.
The closer I got to him, the stronger the hunger surged inside of me. I stared at the blood on his shirt and I could feel my canines stretch and extend against the inside of my lips. “No,” I whispered as dread washed over me and I backed away from him.
Stunned as I was, I knew exactly what had happened. Some creature of the night with a score to settle had hit me with a tranquilizing dart. The drugs had put me out of it long enough for him to turn me into a blood-sucking fiend like himself.
I was a vampire.
Suddenly my laughter echoed through the room. Me, a vampire. I’d spent the last six years hunting and killing nearly every vampire I could get my hands on, and now I was one of them. Of course, that irony wasn’t what I found so dreadfully funny. No, that wasn’t it at all.
I was ravenous.
Feeling the wall against my back, I turned and went for the door. Of course it was locked, but that didn’t stop me from trying to break it open. I realized my mistake almost immediately, but by then it was too late. Instinctively I’d used my vampire blood to make myself stronger, which made the hunger even more compelling.
Slowly, fighting the movement with every ounce of my will but unable to stop myself, I turned and looked at my mortal lover. The hunger grew, overriding my thoughts until only one was left; I had to feed.
“No,” he told me as I walked toward him. “Stay back.” His voice was strong, but I could see the fear in his eyes.
I’d like to pretend that I don’t remember much about the next few minutes, but unfortunately that’s not the truth. I had no control over my body, but I did know what was happening. As I approached him the sound of his heartbeat grew inside of me until I could hear nothing else, not even when he started to beg.
The feel of my teeth sinking into his skin was like nothing I’d ever felt before. Warm intoxicating blood filled my mouth, making my hunger burn even hotter. I swallowed and felt his heat warming me from the inside.
He tried to fight me, kept calling my name and begging me to stop. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Nothing in this world could have pulled me off of him. Even the love I felt for him wasn’t enough to make me stop drinking. The hunger consumed me and, through me, consumed him as well.
Eventually his struggles weakened and I held him up as I drained the last bit of blood from his dying body. It wasn’t until I heard his heartbeat stop that I regained control of myself. I held him for a long moment, savoring the feel of his body against mine, hating the fact that he would never hold me again.
Gently I lowered him until he hung limp in the chains that held his wrist. Two quick jerks of the chain released him from the wall and I was able to lay his body on the floor. I knelt next to him and slowly closed his eyes, mourning him and loathing myself.
I don’t know how long I knelt on the cold steel floor before I heard the door open behind me. Despite the probable danger to myself, I never turned to look at the intruder. A part of me hoped whoever it was would destroy me and put me out of my misery. Unfortunately, he had other plans.
“Miss?” a man’s voice called softly from the open doorway.
I didn’t want to hear him, I only wanted to stare at my lover’s body and wait for death to claim me as it had him. I laughed at the thought, I was dead already, wasn’t I?
The man moved closer. “Are you all right?” he asked gently.
When I turned to look at him, I realized my cheeks were wet. Slowly I reached up and touched the dampness, then looked down at the blood on my fingertips. I’d seen vampires cry before, but somehow I’d never realized how shocking it was.
“I’m bleeding,” I murmured.
He knelt beside me and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe my face. “Everything will be okay,” he assured me.
“No, it won’t,” I denied in a voice as lifeless as I now was. “Nothing will ever be okay again.”
“Yes, it will,” he insisted. “I know things are probably a little tough to adjust to right now, but—”
“Have you ever killed your lover?” I demanded harshly. When he shook his head, I looked down at the body next to me. “I’m a monster.”
“No,” he said quickly, laying a hand on my shoulder. His voice was softly touched by the sounds of Europe, but I couldn’t identify which country. “The beast got the better of you this time, but you will learn to control it.”
Any control I might learn would come too late to save my lover. I was a vampire, a monster, and I deserved to be destroyed. Then it occurred to me that this man knew what I was, that he was the same.
I turned to him, unable to hide the plea in my eyes. “Stake me,” I implored.
“Stake me and leave me for the sunrise,” I begged. “Please, I don’t think I can do it to myself.”
“Why would you want to?” he asked, confused.
“I killed him,” I replied as calmly as I could. “He trusted me and I killed him. Why should I live?”
He reached up and gently brushed the hair away from my face. “My dear, there comes a time in all of our existences when we have to face the demon inside of us. Unfortunately you’ve had to face it sooner than most do. It will get better.”
“Come with me.” Standing, he reached his hand down to me. “I can show you,” he promised.
I stared up at him for a long moment, trying to judge his intentions. He had dark hair that fell over his forehead in contrived disarray. His brown eyes seemed trustworthy enough for a vampire’s. He had an athlete’s body but was dressed in an expensive suit I’d only seen pictures of in fashion magazines.
Finally I placed my hand in his. He helped me to my feet, put his arm around my shoulder and turned me toward the door. With a start I realized that another man stood in the doorway watching us. When I stopped, the man at my side stopped with me.
“Is she all right?” the newcomer asked in a deep baritone. He was very tall with skin almost as dark as the night. His head was shaved and he wore all black.
“She’ll be fine,” the first man replied before looking down at me. “I’m Sebastian Ritter and this is my friend Duncan Masters. We need to get out of here before someone finds us.”
I looked back at my lover’s body. “We can’t just leave him here,” I protested softly.
“Of course not,” Duncan replied, moving past us and effortlessly picking up the body.
As we walked out of the building Sebastian explained that he and Duncan had heard something about the set up that was designed to capture me. They had killed my captors, but had come too late to stop my embrace or my lover’s death.
“Why would you come to help me?” I asked. “Don’t you know who I am?”
“We know,” Duncan answered. “Balance must be preserved between us and the humans. You helped to maintain that balance.”
“I used to,” I muttered bitterly. With my death another would be called upon to fight the evil that I was now a part of.
“We can help you make the transition into our society,” he told me. “You can learn to enjoy your new existence.”
I couldn’t bring myself to believe him. “And what happens when the vampire population finds out what I am?” I demanded. “Don’t you think they’ll take great pleasure in destroying me for what I’ve done to them?”
“We can hide who you are,” Sebastian told me. “You can begin anew.”
His words appealed to me, tempted the part of me that reveled in the strength I could feel running through my body. As much as I’d always hated vampires, I had to admit that I felt good, really good.
“What if I can’t adjust?” I asked softly.
“Then we will help you find peace,” Duncan promised.
Their offer sounded fair enough. The only other choice I had was to show myself in town and wait for the blood hunt to begin. At least with these men I would be able to give my new existence a chance. I followed them to a black Hummer that was parked nearby. Sebastian opened the back and Duncan laid my lover’s body gently inside.
“Do you still hunger?” the dark man asked me as he straightened.
Despite the fact that I’d drained my lover dry, I could still feel the hunger burning inside of me. “Yes,” I whispered, ashamed at my unholy thirst.
He reached past my lover’s body and took a small packet from a compartment inside the Hummer. “Drink this,” he said, holding it out to me.
As I took the packet I realized that it could only be one thing; blood. I wasn’t sure I was up to drinking it, but the hunger told me I’d be able to handle it. Sebastian showed me how to rip a corner off the bag and I brought it to my mouth.
It was cold, but somehow this blood was more satisfying than what I’d drained from my lover. I wanted to drink slowly and savor the taste, but somehow I ended up gulping it down. When I lowered the empty container from my mouth, Duncan handed me another. It tasted better than the first, and was gone almost as quickly.
“You’ll need a new name,” he said thoughtfully. “Any ideas?”
I thought for a moment. “Joan,” I said softly. “I like Joan.”
“Joan it is then,” Sebastian confirmed with a smile. “Joan Smith.”
As much as I wanted to return the smile, my eyes were drawn to the body in the back of the Hummer. I felt despair wash over me and wondered if I would ever be able to look myself in the mirror again.
For questions regarding Joan Smith, please contact the author.
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