Chapter One

Dreamer

Dark, dark and alone, left to rot in a dungeon, a prison forged so long ago that its name was little more than legend now. Old, so old. His mind glazed in fog and was slow with disuse. He was chained in the darkest depths, suspended over a once bottomless pit, but in the course of a thousand years that pit's geological formation changed and now a pool, deep and wide enough to be considered a lake expanded below him. The air was humid, and the cavern still alive. Water dripped from the impossible ceiling into that ever growing lake. The chains binding him had lost their fluidity a hundred years ago, and still he hung, arms over his head, feet locked together, a black ball dangling ten spans below him, not far enough to reach the lake.

His eyes had lost their sight, hearing gone, and yet he lived. The world had forgotten him and yet he still lived, made to suffer forever in darkness. Made to suffer alone.

Always alone.

She woke, eyes coming open. It was still dark, moonlight spilled through her window, making a shadow of the framing across her bed. She did not rise. She was not afraid. She had had this same dream before, for as long as she could remember. She had had it long enough to know that once she woke from it she would be unable to fall asleep again for the rest of the night. Yet still she did not get up, just lay there blinking into the night, hands curled under her chin. She remained in that position for more than an hour before finally deciding to look at the clock.

2:05 it read.

She blinked at it for a few seconds before finally rising. The dream had woken her earlier, and had been waking her earlier and earlier for the past few months now. She tried not to let it interfere with her life, but now she did not think that any human can [could] function with less than two hours of sleep a night. She put her head in her hands, elbows resting on her knees and closed her eyes.

There was a knock on her one bedroom apartment door.

Her eyes came open and she looked up.

Had she imagined it?

The knock came again. Stronger this time.

She reached for her phone, but froze as the locks on the door began to slowly unclick on their own accord. Like an idiot, she remained poised with her hand hovering just above her phone until the door began to slowly creak open to reveal

No one.

She let out a breath, and continued to blink at the empty space between the doorframe.

Nothing was there.

Her hand continued to her phone, but caught nothing but air. Her eyes widened briefly when she glanced down to find her phone gone. A smarter person might have panicked and ran for the door, but somehow she knew she could not escape this.

"Are you a vampire?" she asked the empty room. She rose, glancing from side to side but she found nothing. "Is anyone really there?"

Nothing answered.

She closed the door to her apartment and locked it again.

"Yes."

In spite of herself, she jumped, hands going to the latches that she had just locked. Fingertips just brushing the metal, a pale spindly hand pinned hers to the door. Doe-like eyes rose upwards to meet the thing that came to haunt her.

He was tall, and thin, eyes bright and far too blue to be natural. He was pale and skinny as death. His black clothes drooped elegantly off his skin. The man looked as if she could easily break him in half, yet his grip on her wrist was firm and she knew that she could not fight him and win.

"Correct, on both accounts," he drawled.

A smart person might have screamed and demanded to be released. Instead she continued to meet his impossible blue eyes and calmly asked. "Why are you here?"

He smiled, revealing teeth too white to belong to such a dead body. "I want your skin." He caressed her cheek with his finger, and leaned in to sniff her hair.

"Go on then," she said, arching her neck to the side, letting her glossy black hair slip away to reveal her carotid artery. A smarter person would have fought harder, or perhaps a person more attached to their life would have. The truth was, she wanted to die.

His lips kissed her neck lightly. "You are not afraid?"

"No," she whispered, eyes unfocused, gazing at nothing in particular.

"Doesn't make for good sport but…" a set of fangs ejected from his upper gum "I can live with that."

"Funny, I was under the impression that you couldn't live at all," a deep masculine voice rumbled, shattering the moment.

She blinked and let her eyes focus on what she had been unknowingly staring at. A young man crouched on her windowsill. He was garbed in all black and wore a trench coat that dripped over the window ledge. He tipped his brimmed at her and flashed a flirtatious smile.

"Evening ma'am," he said.

She simply looked at him.

"Come any closer and she's dead," The vampire hissed.

"No," the man said.

And the next thing she knew she was sitting in her bed and the stranger that had burst through her window was dangling the head of the undead creature in front of her face.

"Nasty little buggers aren't they?" he sighed and dropped the head on the floor. "Don't worry, someone will be coming along to clean this place up." He plopped her missing phone onto her lap along with a piece of paper wedged between the receiver and charger.

She pulled out the paper and found a number scribbled in blood.

"Oh, and next time some stranger comes knocking, do me a favor and scream a little? Almost didn't get here in time." He was at her window again, and she watched him leap out.

Almost involuntarily, she scuttled over to the window. Her apartment was on the sixth floor and the window was located on the flat side of the building, there was no way the man could have jumped out and lived, though considering what had just occurred in her room, her suspension of disbelieve should have been altered.

"Right here, ma'am," he called from her left.

Her eyes widened slightly, night air blowing her hair out of her face. It was a glorious sight, watching the man's trench coat fold around him in the wind with his right hand he kept his hat in place while the other blew her a kiss. He stood on a black cloud that she suspected to be formed of millions of tiny bats.

She meant to ask. How are you doing that? But what came out was:

"Who are you?"

"Batman," he laughed.

"Seriously?"

"Bruce Wayne."

She stared at him flatly and he caved.

"Call me, Roy." He winked. "And give me a call sometime!" With that, the cloud of bats disappeared and he fell, six stories to the alleyway below.

She crouched back into her room, closing the window, cutting off the city noises. Blood splattered her entire apartment and there was a headless undead creature on the floor.

A smart person would have freaked, and called the police, possibly a friend and fled the apartment, but you should know by now that Susan Stride wasn't particularly smart. So instead of doing the sensible thing, she reconnected her phone and took a shower, before crawling back into bed in an attempt to fall back asleep, undead man or no.