Thank you Jensi and The Deadly Fang for beta reading!

*Edited Version

I cannot go back to yesterday- because I was a different person then.

-Lewis Carroll


My birthday started with a scream – mine, to be exact.

The sound of my head hitting the cold, hard wood floor rang out loudly in the silent room. Stunned, I blinked at the state I was in – covered in sweat and breathing heavily. I groaned and massaged my templates to get some relief from the pounding headache I suddenly had.

I could only vaguely recall flashes about my dream – a storm and the vivid color of crimson – before the pain in my head became worse. I figured that it was more trouble than it was worth, so I decided to put it out of my mind.

I sighed. This was just what I needed on my birthday.

Yawning, I got up. I probably wouldn't be able to go back to sleep for awhile, not after something like that anyway. So, I went to my bathroom and splashed some cold water on my face and brushed my teeth. I caught my reflection in the full-length mirror and stopped short.

My dark brown hair was a tangled mess which made my skin look more pasty than usual and my sky-blue eyes were wide open and deranged, with dark circles under them. I looked sick.

Frowning, I came back to my bedroom and wondered what I should do now. Listening to something calming would be nice, so I put on some classical music. It comes in handy when I can't go to sleep or need to relax. Lying down on the bed, I closed my eyes and let the notes of Beethoven's "Fur Elise", wash over me. Music had the amazing ability to take me places far away – where all my worries just seemed to disappear.

Unfortunately, not even that could calm me today, so I decided to go for a run. I got out of my pajamas and put on a pair of grey track pants and baggy black t-shirt, along with my favourite pair of white Nikes. After tying my hair into a high ponytail, I snuck out softly and made my way around the neighborhood.

The town I lived in was small and the crime-rate was almost non-existent. I let my feet roam where they will and let mind wander. I knew this place like the back of my hand so I wasn't particularly worried. I was more concerned about that disturbing dream of mine. The more I tried to remember the more it eluded me. So I turned my thoughts towards something else – my 18th birthday.

Tonight was the big party and pretty much all everyone I've known ever since I was three was going to be there. Now, this might not seem too bad, but for me, it was possibly one of the most embarrassing nights of my life. I wasn't a social outcast or anything, I just didn't like being in the spotlight much. And I will end up in the spot light. My family always somehow manages to drag up some old embarrassing secret from my childhood days. In front of everyone. Usually very loudly and drunk. So really, it's no wonder that I didn't really like them much.

Unfortunately, I was part of a family that loved throwing a good party or two, or at least my mom does. Did I mention my birthday is on New Year's Eve? Yup, so my mom goes all-out this time of year. Yippee!

"Nic!" a familiar voice shouted from behind me. I turned around, shocked that I'd managed to get to the edge of town so soon. I was at the border of town, where the woods begin. How on earth did I manage to get here without realizing it?

For some reason, I wanted to go deeper into the woods, as though someone was calling to me and I had to answer it. I quickly shook off the stray thought and looked at the boy coming towards me. "Jake!" I said, smiling at him.

Jake was one of my brother's best friends and we grew up together. I even had a crush on him when we were kids but I quickly grew out of it. He was most definitely heart-throb material, with his chocolate brown hair and dark brown eyes. Mix that with a Quarterback's physique and the personality of a teddy bear and you get an irresistible package, but he was more like family than anything else.

"What's going on with you? Your mother's looking for you and so is Ed. I just happened to be the only one who found you," he said, looking down at me. He was 6 feet tall and that meant I – only 5 foot 5 – had to crank my neck to look up at him.

"I called you at least five times before you answered. And you know better than to be around here," he said looking warily towards the woods.

The woods were dangerous now, or so my parents keep reminding me, after a wild animal attacked someone. It happened recently so I wasn't used to it yet, but they were off-limits until they found the thing. I'd heard rumors about it being a bear or some kind of wild dog, but the police aren't giving out any details so I don't know for sure.

But I've always loved nature, with its open spaces and its freshness. It was the one place I could think without someone interrupting. So I missed being able to walk there. During this time of year, there are rare white flowers that blossom, making the trees look as if they were covered in snow. It was simply amazing.

"Yeah, I know, I know," I said, rolling my eyes, having already gone through this conversation before. Then I frowned, "You were calling me? That's weird, I must've been daydreaming."

"As usual," he said, with a wry grin, and then he picked me up and twirled me around like a 4-year-old, "Happy birthday, Nic!"

I laughed and replied, "Thanks. Now let me go, you freakin' giant!"

He chuckled and put me down, but just as he was about to say something, Ed, my elder brother, came running towards us.

"And the birthday girl finally graces us with her presence," he said, and bowed with flare.

Ed wasn't bad looking, or so my friends say. I honestly couldn't get the appeal. Well, I have been around him most of my life, which makes me immune to whatever 'charms' he apparently possessed. And let's not even mention the way he eats. I swear to God, he eats like he's a starving pig or something. And mom only encourages it by making sure that the fridge is always stocked. I still have no idea how she never gets fat, even though I have to fight just to stay on this side of size 8.

"Ha ha. Now what do you want?"

"Come on," He said, dragging me along with him, "It's already 8 'o clock. Mom wants to go shopping with you. Now."

Spending time with my mother at the mall... Dear God have mercy on me.

Ed practically dragged me to my mother, who had her hands on her hips and said, "Nicola Avery, you are in big trouble, missy! You almost gave me an aneurysm! You know better than to go out with all those attacks going on! Now get dressed young lady, we have so much to do."

She promptly turned around and headed outside, without bothering to wait for me. I rolled my eyes behind her back, but dutifully followed anyway.

"I saw that," she said, her back still turned as she opened the door. I just shook my head. How does she do that?

My mom was a brunette with a face that doesn't ever seem to age. Besides the hair, we didn't resemble each other but anyone who knew us could tell that we were of the same spirit. We were both athletic and had the same fiery spirit and a streak of stubbornness that my dad swears will be the death of him.

My dad simply looked at me from behind the paper he was reading and gave me a look of sympathy. He shared my aversion of large crowds, which we bonded over on many occasions.

I looked to Ed for help but he just grinned at me and shrugged, and then got out of the way before my mother could ask any favors from him. Smart boy.

I spent the rest of the day with my mom picking out clothes and then gossiping with manicurists when we went to the parlor. It wasn't actually as bad as I thought it would be. I decided to go with a classy clear coat that made my nails shine and my mom went with a peach color that perfectly matched her dress.

We went to every shop we could find and finally decided on a dress from Abercrombie and Fitch. The dress looked achingly beautiful and surprisingly familiar, but I just couldn't place it. It was a beautiful white dress with silver embroidery framing the bodice, a low square neckline and a flowing skirt that fell just below my knees. My mom and I both loved it but the price tag on it made me put it back on the rack regretfully. My mom just picked it up and asked the saleslady to wrap it up. I said, "Mom, that was a little over my budget."

She gave me a sharp look and said, "When my baby wants a dress for her birthday, by God, she'd going to get it."

She left in a huff, leaving me trailing after her with a sheepish, and at the same time, goofy smile. Yes, sometimes family can be embarrassing, but these are the times that remind me why I love them.

Soon the rest of the day went by in a blur of party preparations. There were last minute cancellations and one problem or the other cropping up. Mom handled everything calmly and quickly. It was actually quite impressive watching her work. The president should just let her take care of everything, and that would be the end of our problems. I had to get dressed and that would probably take a while so I went up to my room.

By the time I was actually ready and came down to see the party, I was stunned. Mom really went all out this time.

The party was in our living room, which was quite cluttered and mom had to re-arrange the furniture so there would be enough space to dance. The speakers were cleverly hidden all around the room for the true home theatre experience. The big-screen TV was on, waiting for anyone who wanted to watch football or baseball or any sport really. Women don't really get much sway in that department. The food was liberally placed on the counter and every kind of non-alcoholic drink you could think of was served. After all, this was a family-friendly party. Well, at least until someone shows up with booze, probably around 10.

The guests arrived like clockwork. Sometimes, I am truly afraid of my mother, she even managed to calculate the exact number of people attending when many brought an extra plus one. It was a whirlwind of long-lost aunts and uncles that I wouldn't see again till next year.

Why on earth did my mother invite everyone? By the time the clock struck ten, all I wanted to do go to my soft bed and sleep.

But truthfully, it wasn't quite all that bad. I enjoyed some of the party and everyone I loved was here but for some reason I just didn't feel so good today. Well, if I said anything right now about it mom would over-react.

"Happy Birthday, Ric!" Simone, my least-favorite cousin said from behind me, already sloshed after only being here for ten minutes. Ah, so that was who spiked the punch. I closed my eyes and counted to ten before turning around to face her.

She never does manage to get my name right, even when she is somewhat sober. It used to piss me off, but I've learnt to just ignore it. Also, the fact that my mother would kill me if I so much as glared at her was a strong deterrent. There was a little incident a few years back – which was totally not my fault – where there might've been some name calling which resulted in a few punches going around. She started it but as usual, I get all the blame. Mom's still pissed and has kept her hawk-eyes on both of us ever since.

So, I played nice a little longer and ignored Simone while I discreetly let my mom know that someone – a.k.a Simone – had spiked the punch and was getting out of control. My mom was all for family, but there was a limit, and Simone had crossed it about two drinks ago.

I had a court-side view of it and couldn't be happier. My night was finally looking up! My mom dragged Simone by the door and told her something. I was too far away to hear it, but going by Simone's face I'd have to say it went something like, "Get lost, you drunk bitch," but in much more polite terms. After all, she was classy.

Anyway, it was just about to get good. Simone looked like she was going to make a scene, but my mom told her something, her polite smile never leaving her face for a second. Whatever she said was enough to get Simone out the door, spewing obscenities that I'm pretty sure everyone overheard. I raised my eyebrows at that, because she never left without making a scene – well, generally a bigger one.

Way to go Mom!

After that little incident, things ran pretty smoothly. At least, until it was time for the big finale - The New Year countdown.

I thought I saw Simone trying to sneak back into the party, and hoped that she hadn't brought her friends along to crash it.

It was then that I noticed someone that I had never seen before, a handsome twenty-something guy who was dressed in a dark colored shirt and jeans. He had dark hair and dark eyes but I couldn't grasp their color from this far. For some reason, I felt a shiver crawl up my spine when our eyes met. It wasn't a pleasant sensation. He grinned at me, and I saw a flash of white teeth before he was swallowed up by the crowd and I lost sight of him.

Who on earth...? The thought was lost as more people congratulated me and I had to take care of some other drunken guests. But the thought of the man was still at the back of my mind. Maybe it was one of Simone's douche bag friends, he certainly seemed dangerous enough. I'll ask mom about it later, I thought resolutely. My mom knows everyone – right down to their 4th cousin.

Then the countdown began. In retrospect, it was pretty ironic.

As the crowd counted backwards, 10…9…8…

I saw that disturbing guy again, 7…6…5…

I caught his gaze and held it. 4…3…

He looked at me with an odd expression and I could've sworn his eyes gleamed red. 2….1.

While New Year fireworks went off all over the world, I was looking at the guy in all black. He mouthed something resembling 'Get ready' and smiled. Something was off about him. There was something inside me that screamed 'danger'. I could see him somewhat better now and realized he was actually pretty good-looking – in a striking sort of way – but that wasn't why I was staring at him. I just had a very bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

And then I heard the first scream. It came from Simone and abruptly stopped as I saw her falling. The others soon followed. Suddenly, everybody was screaming and running away. I froze. I couldn't move at all, not even to make a sound.

Have you ever seen something so horrible that you can't look away, even though you want to? It's like a car crash that you know is going to happen but you can't seem to help but watch.

Red. Crimson red. Everything was colored crimson and they all fell down. Edward, Jake, Mom, Dad, everyone I knew was falling down. It was like a twisted version of a nursery rhyme I used to play – 'ringa roses'.

Why don't they get up? What's going on? I looked down at my dress to see that it was now stained red.


I finally started screaming then. Only then did I remember my dream clearly. I fell back onto the floor and screamed, crying loudly. It wasn't pretty or as clean as they make it look on TV. In real life, death is messy. The floor was coated with blood, along with the walls. The screams had stopped almost as soon as they began, but the silence strangely felt so loud. The TV was still running and I could hear something about football going on. I was on the floor, almost paralyzed in the midst of the death.

Then I saw that there was only one person still standing and he was coming towards me. I could only sit there with growing horror as he came closer. He moved with unnatural grace and I couldn't understand how he moved so fast. It was like he was on fast forward.

His eyes were a glowing red and he smiled showing his sharp teeth, his canines elongated.

I was shaking by then and he knelt down and bent his head towards me, almost as if to kiss me. But he didn't. Instead I felt a pain in my neck. I screamed then and tried to get away from him but he covered my mouth with his hand. I felt weak, so weak that I thought I was dying too. Then I felt something warm flowing down my throat. My vision clouded into a haze of red.

The last thing I remember of my human life was the color red and then everything went black.