My shoulders hunched as I walked down the shadowy sidewalk, the only light emanating from a street lamp off in the foreground and the stars and moon above. I kept my eyes fixed unwaveringly before me, for if I looked to the right or left, noticed anyone at all to distract my attentions- weaken them- I was certain I would lose my precarious control.

My throat was dry, so devoid of liquid that something inside me rasped with each deliberate breath I took. It was an effort to keep moving, keep placing one foot in front of another; my head throbbed in rhythm with each step. I was so weak; still I kept on determinedly, for I would not- could not- allow myself to falter.

Afton's voice, an ever constant in my mind, spoke up, taunting, spiteful, the pleasure evident in her tone.

(Oh, you're such a moral, moral THING, Dante… but you may as well give up, for you will never have the capacity to maintain a soul. You will never be able to regain what I have taken from you- your humanity…)

I pressed my lips together, lowering my head and speeding up my stride, as if I could run from Afton, as if she could not so easily return to my thoughts- as if we were not bound by mind as well as blood.

(You cannot be what you were, Dante) she sneered. Why torture yourself by trying when it is so much easier to give in?)

But I could not give in… for this was not who- not what- I wanted to be…

I was 27 when Afton changed me- which is, I suppose, at least a fairly ideal age to stay for all eternity. Better to be old enough to care for myself adequately than be forced to remain a child or adolescent- or at least outwardly. And yet I was still fairly young in appearance. This is, in my view, at least nearly the only part of my immortality that I can view as an upside.

I've had time to get used to the idea of being a vampire- hell, I've had nearly a century- but never will I grow to accept it. Eternity stretches before me so bleakly at times, an endless, constant battle against my own loathed instincts- instincts that after a century I still just barely can control.

One of the hardest things for me to get used to when I first changed- beyond the discovery that vampires existed at all- were that all the vampire myths you always hear as a kid were nothing more than that- myths. One would think that the existence of vampires would give everything you hear about them credibility, but that isn't true. For instance, I cannot turn into a bat, or any other creature, for that matter. The sunlight has no effect on me, although I do prefer the night, merely because there are fewer humans around to tempt my control. I am also unaffected by garlic and crosses- and if you think about it, why would garlic be sufficient to incacipate a dead person? I admit it smells unpleasantly strong, for my senses are magnified much more than that of a human's, but it is hardly enough to cause me agony. And I do cast reflections in mirrors- even dead bodies are subject to the laws of nature in some ways.

What has changed is the rapid defenses and invulnerabilities of my body. As my body is no longer quite living, I no longer need to eat, sleep, breathe, or perform any human bodily function, although I can do so if I choose to. My senses have sharpened so I can see clearly in pitch blackness, taste flavors I never knew existed, hear a heartbeat from across a room… and smell the blood running in a human's veins. All of which only serves to make my struggle more torturous.

My body, as it is now, is nearly impossible to destroy, simply because nothing truly seems to injure it. I would know, for I have tried to kill myself and failed countless times. Poison, burning, stabbing, shooting, hanging, drowning… none of it works, for I am already essentially dead. I need not breathe, which rules out hanging, drowning- and with everything else, my body does not react, or heals so quickly it seems to have never happened. So the stake in the heart is a myth as well- the wound would heal the moment the stake was removed, and possibly before. I am resigned now to the truth that even should I be next to an exploded bomb, my body would not be affected. I simply cannot die.

I believe I know, even understand how Afton felt when she decided to change me. It can be miserable to be alone, without another to understand you, experience with you what you do. For it was Afton who changed me, making herself into my blood mother- though she looks, in appearance, to have been changed when she was close to my own age.

I met her in a ballroom nearly 100 years ago… I thought her to be lovely, a promising, well-brought-up widow whom I had never met before. She gave me her age to be 23, though I do not know the truth of it; though she is far older than I, decades, at least, Afton can make herself appear as young as sixteen or as old as thirty.

I don't know her story- and truthfully, I have no interest in knowing it, neither her past nor her changing. I do not even wish to know her true name, for I doubt it was originally Afton. I only wish I had never met her, that she would choose to leave me be.

When I met Afton so very long ago, she seemed to me to be the most beautiful, most captivating person in the room, far overshadowing the humans. This is another trait of us- we can be utterly dazzling, if we so choose, and that long ago evening, Afton was no exception. Her attentions greatly flattered me; I felt giddy, nearly elated at the touch of her cool fingers, the soft sound of her voice.

I stood no chance against her, as does no human. And so I became what I am- a monster scarcely less appalling than she.

I can understand Afton's action in some ways, as I have said; it can get horribly lonely and bleak to live lives- or not live lives- as solitary and friendless as is necessary for our kind to conceal our existence. She wanted me as her companion, eventually, perhaps, as her lover. Another who would be like her, understand her and accept her. I would be lying if I said I do not at times wish I could do as she has done- but the difference is, I could never do it, never purposely condemn a living soul to such a life as mine. Nor could I allow myself to feed upon the lives of others, as she does…

I could have forgiven her what she did to me, possibly even grown to love her in the way she originally hoped. Afton is hardly unattractive or unintelligent. I could have loved her, if only she had even attempted to reject her vampire's nature.

But she didn't… not only did she persist in nourishing herself off the life force of others, she did all she could to bring me into her lifestyle as well. She killed a young man before my eyes, knowing how, as a newborn vampire, I would find it nearly impossible to resist partaking of him.

"It is your nature, Dante," she told me, as she would repeat over and over. "You have left your weak mortal life behind. Do not fight who you are now."

But I had not chosen to become this- this vile creature. She had chosen for me- and I would fight it, I knew, even then.

I do not know how I resisted her purring words, the gentle caresses of her blood-speckled hands. Her eyes compelled me to join her, to taste what she took so willingly. But worst of all was the blood… oh, I could smell it so strongly, nearly enough to taste it, feel it soak inside my still veins.

But somehow I resisted- somehow I broke forth from her in a blind panic, running, the smell of the dying man's blood so vivid in my nostrils. All the while Afton called to me, pleading, taunting… gradually her cries grew angry, embittered, for with my rejection of her lifestyle, I rejected her too.

Nearly one hundred years later, it is still an hourly struggle to maintain my control. Everywhere I go I am tormented by the sound of mortal heartbeats, the smell of blood so strong I nearly taste it…

I survive on whatever animals I can find, dead or alive, it does not matter- whatever can come close to partially sating my desires. It is not nearly enough… I just know somehow that only human blood could satisfy me in the way I crave. Twice now I have slipped, under the avid encouragement of Afton, partaken of a human, though not enough to kill them. It was such bitter sweetness, a kind of desperate ecstasy along with horror and shame… so very hard to pull away, return to my vows. It seemed to me after each slip that nothing would be so easy as to break free from them, live as Afton so often urged me to…

It would please her to no end, I know, for me to give in, let myself go in such a way. She has been waiting for me to ever since I first ran from her- and of course, with each day I continue to resist her, her bitterness only increases- along with her determination to break me.

Every day her voice follows me, cropping up at any given moment… and she will appear when I least expect it, a cold smile upon her full red lips… her appearance never fails to shaken me, for I know she will never stop following me, eyeing me, until I give in.

It is quite usual for a vampire blood parent to share a mental connection with their "offspring" at first; to be able to track their thoughts and whereabouts. It is to guide them through the first critical timing after they have first changed, to ensure they don't go too crazy, do something overt enough to expose us. The connection is supposed to be dropped once the blood parent feels their charge is independent enough to set off on their own without making foolish errors in judgment. But Afton has never severed mine, never let me be fully free from her- deliberately, I know, vindictively.

She still calls for me so many years later, attempting to seduce me in her ways, in her body… and as I continue to resist, her bitterness only grows. She is doing all she can to wear me down, for she will never give up what she perceives as being hers. She will never change another, never attempt to seek out another who might become for her what I will not- not as long as I evade her. I think her hatred for me is nearly equal to the strength of the love she desires I give her.

Afton will not give me up until I go to her- and some days, I grow so weary, so disgusted with myself, my life, that such an option seems nearly attractive.