Jack is made Undead to survive a plane crash. After that, things start to get interesting. Jack follows his maker through a world hidden from the eyes of humans, complete with Traditional parties (like our political parties, but not), illegal Underground assassins, and more...

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

"Say hello to your aunt and uncle for me."

"I will."

"And don't forget to take your medicine."

"I won't."

"Oh, I love you, Jack."

I had to force myself not to do a teenager. Roll my eyes or something. "Love you, Gram."

"Do you have your boarding pass?" My grandmother looked anxiously over my shoulder at the line, which was growing by the second.

"Yeah," I said. "Right here. I need to go."

"Okay, I know. I love you."

"Bye, Gram." I made a leap at freedom, but she caught my coat sleeve.

"I love you, honey. Do you have—?"

"Goodbye, Gram."

"Okay, okay, I'll let you go." She sounded hurt, but her eyes were proud. "Have a good Christmas. See you in a couple weeks."

"See you."

Once past security, I ambled down the hall, ticking off the gates as I went, making notes of interesting bookstores or cafés that might be worth a stop. I had three hours to wait until my plane even landed from its previous flight. It seemed to me that everyone was more than slightly suspicious of me; drab college student walking alone in an airport of one of the darkest cities in the state. There wasn't anything wrong with it, I'm sure there were tons of other guys my age strolling around beside the gates.

I made it to the end of the hall, touched the wall and turned around.

I stuck my hand in my pocket and fished around for a stick of gum. I found one and plopped the pink stick in my mouth. Crumpling the wrapper, I leaned over a woman to throw it away. She clutched at her purse, which had been set on the trash, before I could make it from the three-point line.

I never stopped walking, but it sort of hurt me. Was I that scary? Or was the woman just being sensible? I probably would have clutched at my purse if I had been her. That is, if I was into purses, which I'm not. I'm more of a wallet type of guy.

The bookstore was my next stop.


I looked around. Someone had been yelling, but it had been swallowed up by the bustled murmurs of the rest of the terminal. But hearing your own name is always different. Your own name's audibleeven whenwhispered in a crowded room. I turned toward the sound.

A woman, sitting at a table by the café. Casual, classy, fair-skinned. She was smiling, and wearing a maroon turtleneck. She looked to be in her late-twenties to early-thirties— too old for me, I thought, and refrained from bluntly labeling her 'beautiful'.

When she saw me looking, she caught my eye and waved for me to come over.

I felt a wave of fear freeze me on the spot. Complete strangers did call you over with a smile and ask you if you wanted a cup of tea. I thought about it, and then looked behind me. There's nothing more embarrassing than to find that someone has been looking past you at someone else.

There was nobody behind me, and I felt my nerves tingle with uneasiness. No, there was no doubt about it: this woman was looking at me. I looked back at her, and she raised her eyebrows urgently and nodded when our eyes locked.

Hesitantly, I walked over to where the metal grating blocked off the café tables from the rushing crowds and their luggage. If she did anything threatening I could just walk away, tell a security guard, there's a strange woman at the café.

I stopped and rested my hands on the metal grating. The woman smiled at me warmly and I suddenly wondered if maybe we knew each other.

She leaned the other half of the way over the grating. "Hello, Jack. Sorry about all the yelling, I just couldn't think of your name off the top of my head."

I raised an eyebrow. "Who are you?"

"Come around and have a seat, I want to talk to you. Don't worry." She laughed— a sound I thought was very distinctive, although I couldn't mentally describe it. "I don't bite, sweetheart."

When I sat down at her table, I put my backpack on my lap and made sure one arm was around the shoulder strap.

For a moment, she just looked at me. I began to feel awkward. Slowly, the woman's gaze became more scrutinizing. "What do your friends call you?" she asked.

"Uh, just Jack, I guess. Listen, um, who—?"

She waved a hand at me. "Jack, would you like something to drink? Eat? You have a late flight don't you? They don't serve meals on late flights, I don't think."

"No thanks. I'm fine."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I already ate."

She nodded firmly. "Sensible. That's called planning ahead, Jack. That'll serve you well in college. Are you going to college?"

"Yeah." My hopes went up a little— maybe she was some sort of scout, although I couldn't think of why she would be scouting in an airport.

"Where do you go?"

"University of Madison, Wisconsin. I have family there, so…"

"Sure. Get good grades?"

It sounded as if she were going down a list. On the other hand, she could just be making conversation. "Um, yeah," I said, "pretty good."

"Hm," said the woman. I noticed she wasn't touching her drink. We stared at each other. The only reason I was still there was just in case she represented some company, or if she was a 'scout' for up-an-coming talent, which was a fading idea. I mean, that was why I was still there, wasn't it? There wasn't any other reason. If she would just say she was nobody, I would go.

"Is this some sort of survey?" I said. "Or a test?"

She spread her bare hands over the top of the table, palms up.

"Everything is a test, Jack," she said. Nothing up my sleeve. That was how I was going to remember this person, I realized. The ever-nameless woman. Just a She.

"Sure," I said. "Why are you testing me?"

"Why not?"

"Is it some random person survey? Can you just give me a solid answer?"

"Possibly. Why do you want to know?"

An announcer farther down the terminal announced the boarding of a flight. I came back to earth. This was a stranger and I owed her nothing and she owed me nothing, and there was nothing keeping me from walking away, especially if she was just going to play games.

So why wasn't I walking away?

I stood up. So did she.

"Jack," she said.


Her face was blank for a second, then it split into a smile, bittersweet. "Thank you for the interesting conversation."

"No problem." I bristled. "Glad I could be of amusement." Now get out of my life and leave me alone.

She chuckled to herself, and I found the words to describe it this time. It was the delicate, refined, everyone's friend kind of laugh. It was the I-could-take-you-higher-and-we-know-you-would-love-itlaugh. The chime of wine glasses clinking together.

I backed up slowly. She wasn't acting threatening, but something told me I never wanted to get to know this person, ever. But I wouldn't have a problem introducing her to the security guards the first chance I got—

She scratched the back of her neck absentmindedly. "Now, Jack. When do you say we might be able to see each other again?"

"Uh, just off the top of my head… never."

She was neither surprised or impressed. "Never is an awfully long time."

"So is forever, which is how long a promise lasts." That was what Gram always said. "I'm not going to promise that we'll meet again when it's probably never going to happen."

"We could."

We had better not, I thought.

The woman checked her watch. "When does your flight take off?"


"Really?" She grinned, Cheshire-cat style. "So does mine."

I felt the bottom drop out of my stomach. Therehad to bemore than one plane leaving at 8:30, so what were the chances that her plane was also flight 142 one-way to Portland? Ileft the cafeto find a security guard, half-expecting her to try and stop me. Her eyes narrowed, but she said nothing, did nothing.

When I found a guard, I checked back over my shoulder for the woman who was, of course, gone. Without bothering security, I hurried back to my gate to wait until 8:30 rolled around.

It wasn't until my plane started boarding that I wondered how did she know my name?

The scout idea was out the window. She couldn't be family, because she never introduced herself, and she never said, "Oh, look how much you've grown!" or tried to pinch my cheek. So how, then, would she know me? I had reacted when she'd called me, sure, but how did she know to guess Jack? Sure, it was common, but honestly.

I flipped all these thoughts around in my head. I didn't want to think about it, but the woman and the conversation kept bubbling stubbornly to the top. I will admit I was shaken.

My seat was in the very last row on the plane, back in the dark by the bathrooms. Luckily, no one came to claim the other seats, so I got to stretch out.

From where I was, I got a good view of the rest of the plane and the people boarding. I didn't see The Woman board and I sank back in my seat in relief after we were off the ground.

We were scheduled to roll into Portland around 1:00 o'clock in the morning. I shook a small pillow free from my backpack and snuggled into the corner by the window. It was nice being in the back. The seclusion was nice, especially for relaxing. In front of me, two people were talking. I couldn't help but occasionally pick up words of their exchange.

One, a man sitting the window, was talking to a woman in the middle seat. They were talking about traveling, but I didn't pay attention until I heard 'Iraq'.

I immediately thought: soldier. The man in front of me would be going to war in a few months. I thought of someone I knew who had been called to duty, an old teacher of mine. A memory became clearer as I thought about it.

He had been standing outside in the springtime, on the soccer field, the sunlight shinning down gently all over the fresh grass, and the new leaves on the trees. He'd been just standing there, hands thrust into his denim pockets, staring at the ground. Deep in thought. Grass, he had said. I'm not going to see grass for a long time. What kinda person doesn't get to see grass…?

I half-smiled to myself at the thought. How many people had cried when he left? Where was he now? How was his wife? How would be if he came back?


I closed my eyes in my pillow and fell asleep.

It was darker when I opened my eyes. It had been dark when I fell asleep, yes, but now most of the reading lights were off and people were sleeping. The plane bounced a bit every now and then.

I looked around and blinked in surprised. A person was sitting in the other seat. It was too dim to see clearly, but I could guess who it was, and I hated myself for guessing that, because stuff like that only happened in cheesy movies. I took a deep breath and gave the person a bit of room.

"Shhh," said the person."People are trying to sleep." It was her voice.

I had a small heart attack and blinked a few times. "I didn't say anything," I hissed.

"You're a loud thinker." She looked around the chair in front of her and into the aisle, and then looked behind her to see if the lavatory empty.

"Oooohhh-kaaaay," she said slowly. "Come on." She got up and motioned for me to do the same.

I stared at her. "What?"

"I said come on."

"I am not—"


"Jeez, gimme a second, will you?"

We were standing in the aisle and she moved back towards the lavatory. Opening the door, she once again glanced around the plane to see if anyone was up. She stepped into the lavatory but didn't close the door.

When I didn't immediately move to follow, she glared. "Come on."

"What? No! Two people can't fit."

"They can and they will," said the woman firmly. "Now don't make me say it again."

Without waiting for an answer, she grabbed my wrist and pulled me in. I couldn't have resisted if I'd tried— shehad quite strong for someone of her stature.

She reached around my waist and closed and locked the door in one motion. It was a tight fit in the lavatory and we were literally breathing the other's breath.

"I don't suppose there's a method to your madness?" I asked flippantly.

"Shut up," came the answer. But she didn't sound severe. More like she was anxious and attempting to sound bored. I shut up, all the same.

"My apologies," she said. "But you have to listen to me, now. Please, try and bear with me."

I nodded as much as the limited space would allow.

"The plane is going to crash."

I said nothing. Nobody just says, the plane is going to crash and leaves you alone in the lavatory to think it out. There would be more.

"And everyone is going to die," she continued, watching me carefully.

I still said nothing. Everyone is going to die isn't any better than the plane is going to crash. I wasn't that worried that the stranger would leave me; I was in the way of the door. There would be more. There was a 'but' to this somewhere.

"Jack?" she asked. Her eyes were questioning.

"There's a 'but' to this somewhere," I said.


"What is the 'but'?"

"The 'but' is that you don't have to die."

"Everyone is gonna to die," I repeated, "but I don't have to."


"How come?"

She stared. "What exactly do you—?"

"Stop" I hissed. "You know exactly what I mean. Why don't I have to die? And how the hell do you know the plane's gonna crash, at all? What are you, some sort of really bad terrorist?"

"Do you trust me?"

"No, I don't trust you! You're stalking me!"

"That's because I want to save you!" she said. "Jack, please. Just—"

"Why? Why do you want to save me when I don't even know your name?"

There was a moment of heavy breathing and general shuffling around.

"You have to trust me, Jack," she said patiently. "I can help you, but you have to let me. You have to want it. This isn't some selfish act on my part." Our eyes locked. "You could be the only one to make it through this crash."

"Won't you live?"

She laughed, but it wasn't the wine glass laugh. This was much, much darker. Darker, dustier, deeper. Not the wine glass, but down into the earth. Into the wine cellar. It would be one of Edgar Allen Poe's, possibly, complete with flickering torches and people rotting behind brick walls and such.

"I never said anything about living. Neither of us will live through the crash, whether you let me help you or not." She took a deep breath. "But if you do choose to let me save you, you will walk away, which is a world better than what the rest of these people will be doing."

Who are you?

It was at least half a minute before I could speak. If I had been thinking, I would have been worried that someone would walk in on us.

"I don't— this is crazy... I mean, what are you going to do? What are you even talking about?"

There wasn't that much room in the lavatory to begin with, and it was very cramped, but the second I said that it suddenly seemed a lot smaller. She was suddenly a lot closer.

"You said you didn't trust me," she said huskily. She was barely whispering, but we were close enough that I could hear her over the plane's engines. Her voice was changing again.

I tried to shake my head. "No, I don't. I don't, um—"

"You have to."

She was staring relentlessly into my eyes. She never blinked, and her stare was powerful, hypnotic. I tried to move away, but I couldn't, obviously. I didn't want her looking at me. Into me. I didn't want her to see—

"You have to," she said. "Trust is essential. It won't work if you don't trust, because I'm not going to force you."

My head was spinning. "Why? Why wouldn't I be able to... to what? This isn't making any sense."

"Yes or no."

"To what? What is yes?"

"Surviving the next couple of hours, yes or no, Jack," she said with a marble smile."You want to walk away, or you don't. It's not that simple, but that's it in a nutshell."

I stared at her. "There's more to it than that. I don't believe that you would do something like that for 'nothing'."

"Believe it."

"What are you going to do?"

Her hand came up and covered my mouth in irritation. "Not now. There'll time for questions later. There will be a lot of time for questions later. But not now. Trust is all I'm asking for."

I swiped her hand off. "But that's not true!" I whispered, exasperated. "I can't believe I'm having this conversation! Why should I believe the plane is even going down at all? Are you trying to scare me, or something?"

"Not trying."

"Yeah, well," I sighed. "Could've fooled me."

The next minute saw no talking from either of us. I believe she was letting me think stuff over.

"Okay." I took a deep breath, trying not to exhale right in her face. "You say you're going to save me," I said slowly. "What does that entail? What do I have to pay?"

"Not money."

"What then?"

The woman half-smiled from the corner of her mouth. "I'm actually really impressed at your questions. Nothing puts you off the trail, does it? You know what you want."

"What then?" I grated.

Her smile widened. "Something very important. You don't know what it is. You might not even know you have it, but it's very special to you, and very important."

"Whatever the hell that means,"I muttered."You said you wanted trust? Well, miss-person-I've-only-known-for-three-hours-of-my-life, you're asking a lot considering you won't even tell me the truth. I mean..."

A picture flashed in my head. A strange woman asking about me, following me onto the plane, getting me in the bathroom alone, telling me the plane's going to crash… I imagined little cameras in the corners of the bathroom… oh my God, was I being pranked?

"No. Don't even think like that." Her face had gone flat.

"Think about what?"

"This isn't a prank, Jack," she said in a low voice. "This is very serious, very real."

"Yeah, sure," I said."Then how did you come up with prank idea right away?" Jeez! And to think I had almost fallen for it, maybe on national TV. I reached around to open the lavatory door.

Her arm snaked around and closed it again, forcefully. She grabbed a fistful of my shirt collar in her other hand and pulled me close.

"Do you think this is a joke?" she said in a tense monotone. "It's not, boy. You're going to die. Does that sound funny to you?"

My knees were turning to jell-o. Inoticed her teeth werewhite, and kind of sharp."If it's a prank, if the plane isn't going down, if this is all just some stupid joke..." I was babbeling.

She gave a short laugh. "If I'm joking, I'll give you a billion dollars, no strings attached. Promise. And if there really are cameras in the corner, you can be sure the station got that loud and clear." She let go of my shirt and I leaned away from her.

I couldn't imagine what it was that she was going to do.

"Will it hurt?"

The woman smirked. She had me, and now we both knew it.

"Only a little."

I sighed. "Then tell me what you're going to do."

She leaned into me. Her arms found their way around my waist and around my neck and shoulders. I felt my entire body flush at her touch, as if I'd been put in a furnace. She made me unbelievably nervous.

"Just relax," she said, feeling the change. "Relax, trust me, and do what I tell you. You'll know what to do."

By now, I was past being bewildered, or puzzled, or confused or embarrassed. From me waking up till the present moment, my mind was just a big blank. Like my subconscious had gotten hold of a big black marker and scribbled it out. The last of my reason was shaking its head sadly, telling me that she was tricking me into something cheap.

I wasconsidering thatwhen she leaned up and put her face into my neck. I almost was expecting her to start kissing me, but instead felt a sharp pricking there were her lips touched, and a soft, fuzzy feeling began spreading through my limbs. My jell-o legs buckled and collapsed. The woman caught me with one had, managed to keep my neck and back supported with the other.

My God, I thought. Oh. My. God. My vision faded to black, and for a few seconds, I lost touch with the floor. I was faintly aware that she was no longer on my neck doing, well, whatever it was that she had been doing. I wasn't really sure, as my brain was at it again with the black marker. The darkness was fading away from my eyes, and I saw that she was looking down at me with an indecipherable expression on her face.

"Well?" she said at last.

"What was that?" I managed. I was on fire from a confusing mix of embarrassment and arousal. If I had been thinking clearly, and hadn't been so naïve, I would've had the sense to be scared shitless.

"A taste," she said.

"Who exactly got the taste?" I said. Her eyebrows went up and she laughed in surprise.

"Figure it out, Jack," she said. "Now you can shut up with all your questions till after we get on the ground. Yes or no."

I blinked up at her. She seemed so patient, yet dangerous. "Yes?" I tried.

"Yes with a question mark doesn't cut it, pal."


"Are you sure?"

"I'll survive the crash?"

"You will walk away."

"Then... yes."

She was pulling me closer again, lips curling, eyes misting over. "Will you let me?"

"Yes." Let you what? I thought.

Closer... "Then yield." Her voice was throaty, deep.

On my neck... Oh, God, what are you doing? My vision dimmed again. What have I done? She was holding me up.


This time it wasn't like a needle, but a full-fledged bite. No holding back. My fists clenched and I tried to push her away. But she was stronger than I was, and I had said yes. I had promised, and a promise is forever, as Gram would have said.

The pain was fairly brief, just long enough for my body to get used to losing ounce after ounce of blood in quick succession. It was like experiencing the most passionate, mind-blowing kiss ever, but the intense part of this was what she had been talking about from the beginning, the mental part. Trust.

From the first second, I could feel my conscious shutting down till there was almost nothing but the physical sensations and the, I'm going to die." The weaker I got, the more I had to trust that the woman would hold me up. And she did.

But I could feel that the more I lost, the more she gained. The blood surged through, and it became easier for her to keep me up. Ours hearts beat as one— I could hear it in my ears, and I could feel it as she pressed us together. My eyes rolled in my head. I was on the edge of collapsing. I mean, whether you're being held up and bled by a vampire in the back of a plane lavatory, or if you're not, a human body can only take so much abuse. It felt like freefall vertigo and it was bittersweet.

She raised her head from my neck. My eyes were closed, but I heard her take a shaky breath and I felt myself being rearranged in her arms. There was a moment of peace, which felt like an empty void compared the feeling of rushing blood, then my mouth was gently opened and I found myself on the receiving end of the mad exchange.

It was the complete reverse. All my strength came flowing back in mouthful after mouthful of our blood, and I took it without question. The trust factor was there again. I had given, or was forced to give, almost all of me to her. And now she gave back, and gave, and gave until our hearts were beating together again, until I felt the source of my rapture being taken away from my lips.

I was hurtfully confused for a moment but then she embraced me, like a mother would, and I didn't feel so bad. I was strong enough now that I could hold her back.

We were breathing hard, both out of breath as if we'd run a marathon. I could tell by the way she went semi-limp that she was exhausted. But then, I wasn't feeling too hot myself. I had a feeling that it wouldn't last long: the blood was whispering to me, little promises of strength, power, etc. I ignored it.

I lifted her off my chest. She opened her eyes and looked at me, and suddenly I wanted to hide. The intimacy was excruciating. I'd never had a girlfriend before, and had never been kissed, and had never… well, you know.

I recognized the expression on her face. My adult sister had looked like that after she'd come home from the hospital after giving birth to her first child. Tired, not-about-to-do-that-again-any-time-soon, but content.

There was a sharp knock on the door. I almost jumped out of my skin.

"Come on." She reached around me and unlocked the lavatory door.

The stern man at the door gave us a disgusted, appalled glare as we slinked out.Shesmiled apologetically at the people in line.They narrowedtheir eyes at us, but said nothing.

I nearly collapsed in the aisle, but my lady rolled me into my seat before sitting down heavily beside me. We looked at each other. I occurred to me that I should say something. A thank you, a compliment, a nasty or derisive comment, I don't know. But I couldn't think of anything.

"Thank you," I said at last, "for the interesting conversation."

Laughing quietly, she reached down and took hold of my hand. She was back to the wine-laugh again, I noticed.

"Glad I could be of amusement." She kissed each one of my fingers slowly. She was still watching me, and Ifelt obligedto watch her back, just in case she made any sudden movements.

Even in the dim light, her eyes managed to sparkle.

I thought about pulling my hand away, but dismissed the idea. "Who are you?" I said, mostly to myself. "I still don't even know your name."

"Julian," she said.

"Julian," Isaid feebly. "Jack and Julian."

"Julian and Jack," Julian whispered. She wouldn't be just a she to me, anymore. She was Julian. And Julian was smiling at me in a smug way. Proud of a job well done. "It isn't going to happen for an hour or so," she said.

I frowned. I had forgotten all about the plane supposedly going down. Julian pushed me back in my seat.

"You can rest," she said. "You should rest. You need to rest. It's going to get traumatic here, in a while."

"Okay, mother," I teased, although the term was probably more accurate than was intended. "Stop worrying."

"Go to sleep, Jack."

It sounded like a wonderful idea, and I was almost dreaming when I sat up again. I squeezed Julian's hand. Her eyes were closed.

"What is it?" shesaid softly.

"In the airport," I whispered. "Why were you asking me all those questions?"

"To get to know a little about you, that's all."

"Oh. So, you weren't like... evaluating me, or anything, were you?"

"Enough, Jack." She glared at me out of the corner ofhereye. "Rest."

Somehow, I managed to work my way to sleep this time. I was tired, and it felt great, but that didn't keep me from jumping every time the plane hit turbulence...