Author's Note: Thanks for the reviews! Please let me know if you notice any misspellings/tenses/etc. I type mostly on my iPad and these things don't come up like they do when I write in Microsoft Word. Many of my stories are in their first drafts so I can get feedback on all facets of the story. Every review is extremely appreciated: good OR bad!
They say that the first stage of grief is denial. As I looked down at the metal bar that used to be a handle, I believe denial was a very good word to describe what I was feeling. I dropped the handle like had suddenly became hot; it fell to the ground with a clamor that ricocheted around the entire room. I quickly began to examine the door, trying to find a way to pry it open for my escape. It protested loudly, but soon I had the door wide open and was faced with a badly lit white hallway.
At the very end of the hallway, a large "EXIT" sign shown like a beacon in the night, beckoning me. I stuck my head out of the doorway once more, looking to see if anyone could see me before I made a beeline to the emergency exit using the wall as a crutch, wrapping the lab coat around myself to hide my costume.
Eagerly, I pushed the open door bracing myself for the icy, cold night. Instead, I was simply let to an alleyway behind the building, unaffected by the cold autumn weather at almost five in the morning.
I wandered around for what felt like ages trying to find out where I was, hopelessly trying to get some sense of direction. My legs still wobbled, almost buckling under my weight as I walked. Surely to any passerby I would look like I was still drunk from the night before. Many times I was forced to hold onto the brick walls on either side of the alley way to stabilize myself as I trudge to the familiar sounds of Philadelphia street traffic that lay on the other side.
My knees gave out right before I reached the street as I growled out in frustration, terrifying a woman who passed quickly, almost running.
I slammed by fits down on the ground, causing the concrete to indent with two perfect replicas of my fists.
"Work!" I demanded of my legs.
I let out a labored sigh, pushing back the tears that still lingered from before. What had happened to me? What did I do to deserve this punishment?
This must be all a dream, a horrible, terrible nightmare that I would be waking up from soon. Maybe I had fallen asleep in my organic chemistry class, again.
I began pinching myself all over, trying to wake myself up.
"Wake up, wake up, wake up," I pleaded with myself. "Please, wake up."
As I continued to pinch myself in earnest, desperation began to set in and once again I was in tears. Uncontrollable, messy tears streamed down my face as I watched the sun slowly crest over the nearby tall buildings that littered Philadelphia.
Needless to say, denial had definitely set in. For what felt like ages, I sat in the same position, staring blankly at the wall in front of me, attempting to come to terms with what was happening.
I watched slowly as a ray of light began to trail up the side of the wall beside me before reaching my hand. Warmth spread over my hand quickly becoming hot like someone had placed a molten coal on my skin. Quickly, the unmistakable sound of sizzling began to start as I saw my hand was engulfed in smoke.
I screamed in pain, feeling as though someone was ripping my skin off and burning my entire hand at the same time. I retreated into the shadows of the alley like a wounded animal, cradling my hand.
The further I retreated into the darkness of the alley the quicker the pain began to subside in my hand. Soon, it was gone and as I glanced back at my wounded hand, it looked as though nothing had even happened.
I walked so far back into the alley way that I finally reached the end, slumping down until I ended up sitting on the ground in disbelief.
How many people wake up in a morgue with super strength and a weakness to sunlight?
I should be exhausted, but I felt more energized than ever. However, it seemed like I would be set on fire if I even stepped out in the sunlight for a minute. I looked out to the end of the alleyway that was bathed in light.
I knew what I was, but I preferred not to think about it.
Instead, I waited. I waited until nightfall, protected by what little protection from the sunlight I could find.
The day progressed more slowly than ever as a thirst grew in me steadily; intensifying like it had the night before. Only, this time, it was getting much harder to control. It came to the point that it was all I was thinking about. I didn't want water; I wanted something else. It was like a hunger that resonated throughout my entire body.
As people continued to pass the opening, I looked at them longingly. I knew what I wanted, but I refused to admit it to myself. I didn't want to even think about it. As the day progressed, I felt myself growing weaker and weaker and unable to move as fast from the approaching sunlight as I had earlier. Before the sunset on All Saints Day, I was reduced to crawling to avoid the sunlight.
Life continued around me through the day, no one even realizing that I was struggling in the alleyway. They were unaware of me until, at sunset, I finally emerged from the darkness of the alley like a zombie. My feet were so heavy they felt like they were weighed down by cement blocks as I dragged them towards the light of the bustling street.
Not even seconds within being on the street, I heard a horrified gasp beside me.
"Oh, dear God," the woman said. "Dear, are you alright?"
I looked up at the woman, acclimating to my vision as it grew fuzzy and then much sharper, focusing on her.
"I'm just fine," I managed to say feeling the familiar thirst rise in me like it had with the attendant at the morgue.
"Like hell you are," the man said. "Look at her, she's covered in blood."
"Don, we need to get this girl to a hospital," his wife said, grabbing me around my shoulders like I imagine she did with her own grandchildren.
"I don't need to go to the hospital," I whispered.
"Don, go grab the car," she said as Don walked briskly across the street.
I glanced up at the woman, focusing on the vein in her neck. I could hear it calling to me, beckoning me for just a taste. I knew what I was thinking and what I wanted was unbelievable, but the hunger inside me was much stronger than my will now.
"I'm sorry," I said, grabbing her and throwing her into the alleyway.
Before she could even let out a scream, I had sunk my teeth into her neck. I drank greedily, as if I had never drank or eaten before. The hunger took over me completely. I didn't even feel the woman go limp in my arms before the hunger subsided-although only momentarily.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" I heard her husband exclaim from behind me, rushing to his wife's side.
I didn't say anything. The hunger returned as I pushed the man down, allowing the animal inside me to take over once more. I looked at him, not even bothering to wipe the blood from my lips.
"What in the world?" He said, slowly backing up into the safety of the well-lit street.
"I'm sorry," I repeated before I lunged at him, throwing him into the darkness of the alley before I fed once more. It was difficult to resist—the more and more I tried, the more and more the hunger became unbearable. Moments after thrusting my new fangs into his throat, my resistance gave way to eagerness to satiate my undying hunger.
He too, like his life, fell to the ground from my arms after I had finished. Panic quickly began to set into me as I looked at their too bodies lay lifelessly on the ground. I had just killed two people. Charlotte Alders had just killed two complete strangers and drank their blood!
I almost felt sick. It felt like a horrible hallucination, like ones of those dreams that is so real you feel like you're actually living it. Once more, life continued around the alleyway, completely unaware of what had just transpired.
I had to leave. I needed to be far, far away from this. I looked down at my outfit once more. People were definitely going to notice me in a lab coat and a dirty, blood-covered Halloween costume. I looked at the woman and her attire.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, I told myself.
Reluctantly, I removed what I could from her and quickly dressed myself in the alley. Her clothes were only moderately blood-soaked, but I threw her dark jacket over me before turning to face the reality of the street ahead. Swiftly I blended myself into the oncoming crowds wandering down the sidewalk. I looked up the street sign above, finally realizing where I was. I was only a few blocks away from my school.
I felt like someone who had been trudging through the desert for ages, trying to get home, as I weaved myself through the crowds. The sign for Lennox College was a relief to me; finally, some normalcy.
When I reached the school, I eagerly entered my dorm, racing up the steps to the fourth floor. Most people didn't even seem to notice me as I pounded up the steps, not even tired like I used to become from climbing up these steps. Once I reached my floor I passed door by door to reach my own at the very end of the hall.
"Charlotte!" I heard a name exclaim from behind me.
My friend Kaitlin raced towards me with a look of concern in her face, gripping me by both of my shoulders once she reached me.
"Oh, hi," I said meekly, grabbing the jacket around me more closely like a sudden gust of chilled wind suddenly overtook me.
"Where have you been?" Kaitlin asked.
"I was staying with a friend last night," I lied. "Halloween got kind of out of control last night."
Kaitlin looked at me with a furrowed brow. I knew she wasn't buying it, but her concerned eyes kept me locked in place and unable to move.
"Haven't you heard about Chloe?" She asked almost backing me up against the wall.
"No, what about Chloe?" I lied again.
"Charlotte, she's dead!"
"What? She can't be dead," I feigned surprise. One thing I could say about myself was that I was never going to be a Hollywood actress. With each passing moment I could feel Kaitlin's calculating gaze upon me, sizing me up like a pint-sized brunette lie-detector.
"Have you been living in a ditch the last twenty-four hours? It's all over the news!"
If only she knew, I thought.
"I-I better go to my room," I said, breaking myself free from her inquisition.
Kaitlin let me pass her reluctantly, turning to walk back to her dorm room.
"Charlotte, wait," she said, turning back to face me. She dug into her the pocket of her jeans to reveal a crumpled business card that she placed in my hand.
"What's this?" I asked while examining it like it was an old relic from the ancient world.
"That's Detective Arkwright's card; he came here looking for you earlier," she said before turning to walk down the hall.
I glanced down at the card, making out the name William Arkwright from the crumpled mess of a card. I sighed heavily as I made way to the door of my dorm room that beckoned to me. Eagerly I threw to door open and flung myself into the room, locking the door behind me.
As soon as I had the door locked, I slumped myself against the door, sighing in relief. I sat there for moments, finally relieved to be somewhere that had electricity, was clean and not on a street in the middle of Philadelphia. I looked over to the door than contained our closets and the small bathroom that the school provided for us.
I could hear the shower beckoning to me. I just needed to wash it all away: Halloween, Chloe dying, the morgue, the alleyway, the couple… Before I knew it I had made it to the bathroom and shed my clothes. The hot water couldn't cascade over me quick enough. It warmed my body, washing away all of the evils of the past two days. For a moment, I was able to forget everything.
Stepping out of the shower I dried myself quickly, amazed at my speed.
"Could this really be real life?" I found myself asking myself, staring at my porcelain hand in amazement before I threw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.
Walking out of my closet, I closed the door to look at myself in the mirror. What I did not expect was the man that was sitting on the bed, staring right back at me.
"Hopefully your sense of style improves, now that you've changed," he said, as if we had been the best of friends for years.
"Who-Who are you?" I asked, holding on tightly to the clothes I had collected from my closet.
"I saw what you did to that couple in that alley. Very nice work," he congratulated me.
I backed myself into the door so swiftly and with such strength that I accidentally shattered the mirror.
"Oh, no," I breathed, fighting back tears once again. Before Halloween I wasn't as much as an emotional wreck. Things seemed so much more difficult, so more heartbreaking and so much more frightening after last night I felt like I had the hormone imbalance of 6 teenagers going through puberty.
I felt a sharp, quick pain in my back. Reaching back, I felt a few shards of glass sticking out of my back.
"Well, needless to say: you're definitely a vampire," he said, walking up to me. I pinned myself once more against the door as he reached out to touch me. Gently, he pulled out a few of the shards and tossed them to the ground.
"Thank you," I said meekly.
"I have to say, you made a very big mistake coming here," he said.
"Why is that?" I asked.
"Because this was the first place we would have looked."
Suddenly, out of nowhere, another man appeared. He was dark-skinned and broad and smiled at me with a pair of pearly white fangs. The first man looped his arm around mine while the other vampire took my other arm, lifting me up so my feet couldn't even touch the floor.
Collectively, they threw me on the bed which buckled and began to crack under the force. Quickly, I stood up and attempted to make my way to the door. I was grabbed around the waist by the first vampire who pinned me to his chest.
"Whoa, we just want to talk, kid," he said.
"I don't want to talk to you," I said, panicking and attempting to jostle myself out of his grip. I kicked him in the stomach in desperation.
"Help me, Abel," the first breathed, bending over trying to recover from my kick.
"We would really appreciate if you didn't make a scene," Abel said through gritted teeth. He struggle with me relentlessly, now wrapping my arms around me and giving me an awkward bear hug.
"Renaud and Violette have already spent too much money trying to cover this one up," the other said.
Abel sat me on the bed and stood beside me, his hand holding onto my shoulder tightly.
"Now, let's start this over again," the other said. "My name is Liam. Yours is?"
I looked up to Abel and then to Liam.
"Charlotte," I said.
Liam smiled. "My sister's name was Charlotte. Now, Charlotte-can I call you Lottie?"
"No," I said shortly.
"Er, alright then, Charlotte," he emphasized. "We're just here to talk for a little, nothing wrong with that, right?"
"You broke into my room," I said.
"Well, to be quite honest this is human Charlotte's room. How long did you think you were going to be able to stay here until someone notices that you were the other girl that was killed last night?"
"Hundreds of people die in the city every year," I retorted.
Liam pulled out a clipping from the newspaper and held it up.
"Hundreds of people's whose picture is plastered on the front of the paper?" Liam said.
Liam held up the paper to Abel.
"Abel, does this girl look like our friend Charlotte here?" He asked Abel.
"Sure does," Abel responded with a twinge of a French accent.
"That's what your friend down the hall said too, when she submitted the picture to the Inquirer. What was her name again?" Liam looked towards Abel for guidance.
"Kaitlin," Abel responded.
"That's right, Kaitlin. Kaitlin said she went to the club with you and your dearly departed friend Chloe last night and neither of you came back. How long do you think it's going to take the real police to put the pieces together?" Liam said.
"Not very long," Abel said, answering for me.
I searched for words in my head but remained silent.
"Now, we said we were here just to talk. What was the name of the vampire who attacked you?"
My mind still remained foggy from the night before. As the day has progressed in the alley way I received only flashes of my memory, like my name and what we were doing at the club. I was amazed I even knew where my school or my dorm was, let alone details of the night that I was killed.
"I-I don't remember," I said, holding my head like a severe migraine had begun to progress.
"Think harder," Abel said, grasping into my shoulder harder than before. I felt my collar bone buckle under the pressure of his grasp. Slowly I felt m collarbone begin to crack under the pressure becoming more and more painful as the moments passed.
"He had some Italian name," was all I responded in desperation to make the pain stop.
A smile began to emerge on Liam's face. "I see you're learning that the pain as a vampire is much more intense than when you were human. We can do this all night; each time the bone heals we can break it again."
I looked up at Liam, my eyes pleading with him as the pain lessened.
"Again, what was the name of the vampire who attacked you?" Liam repeated.
Once again, Abel began to tighten his grip the more I struggled with him.
"I'm much older than you, ma chere. Don't even bother," he said to me.
I felt the bone begin to protest before it started to break once more, radiating pain that I felt all over my body.
"L-Luca!" I heard myself scream.
Abel let go of me, smiling in satisfaction.
"There, now was that so hard?" Liam asked.
As soon as Abel freed me from his grasp, the pain quickly subsided as my body healed itself. I began to rub my shoulder as the feeling slowly came back. For a few moments Abel and Liam only stared at each other, much like Chloe and I used to do when we preferred to have a conversation no one else could hear. However, they both remained completely still and made none of the regular gestures Chloe and I used to make. The only stared at each other intently.
Abel nodded in agreement. Liam must have said something even inaudible to me before turning back to face me with a disheartened look on his face.
"Now, onto the part I hate the most: disposal," Liam sighed.
I felt a pang of panic slowly rise within me. Did he just say disposal?
"I thought you said you only came to talk?" I asked.
"We lied," Abel said.
"I don't understand," I said, backing away from the bed looking frantically at the door the two vampires blocked.
"With no sire to come for you, and it being very clear you are unable to control yourself, we must take it upon ourselves to dispose of any threat of exposure," Liam explained.
"It's nothing personal," Abel added. "It's just our job."
"It's kind of hard to not take it personally," I quipped. "You're going to kill me, after all."
Liam shrugged indifferently.
"Should we get started then?" He said.
"I don't think so," said a woman's voice.
Abel and Liam turned towards the window to look at a slender, auburn-haired woman who stood defiantly in front of them. She was dressed oddly; I had never seen someone dress like her before. She wore a long jacket that went almost to her knees. It looked like something straight out of Vogue, but didn't match the rest of her outfit. Underneath her jack she wore tight-fitting black pants paired with a black lace corset worn over a white blouse.Her feet were slipped into a pair of leather booties that probably made it extremely difficult to scale the side of the building. That is, if she even had to scale the building to begin with.
Her long auburn hair trailed behind her, whipping in the small breeze that flew through the open window. She looked like one of those heroines you would see in a fantasy movie.
"Not now Gwenolden, the adults are talking," Liam said.
"Very funny," she responded, glaring at Liam.
"What are you here for?" Abel asked.
Gwendolen pointed to me. "Her."
Abel and Liam looked at each other in disbelief while my eyes darted from one person to the next. This was getting too bizarre. Did these people know more than I did?
"What for?" Liam said.
"That's none of your concern, you dilapidated bag of bones," she responded.
"Oh, your acid tongue is so diplomatic," Liam responded. "Let me just hand the girl right over to you."
"It's one of my more famous attributes," she said smugly.
"Word on the street is Grandmommy Abra kicked you to the curb in favor of your demimagus of a cousin." Liam said. I could see the amused smile spread across his face.
Gwendolen's glare became much darker and it seemed with every passing moment that even the room became to darken. I was the only one that seemed to notice, or even care.
"Oh, too soon?" Abel winced, feigning sympathy.
"Continue with your jabs at my expense and I'll remove that smile from your face myself," she said, reaching into her jacket pocket.
Quickly, the smiles faded from both Abel and Liam's faces.
"Fine, have her," Liam said. "I can't imagine why; the girl can barely stand without breaking something."
Though I had only known Liam for what felt like moments, his comment felt jarring. Truly, I had been trying to take my new gifts in stride but controlling them was hard. I felt like I had just been scolded for something that wasn't my fault. I had been trying since I woke up in the morgue to control every aspect of my new abilities but seemed to be failing miserably at it.
Abel turned to me. "Today is your lucky day, ma chere," he said.
Was it really my lucky day? Before I could contemplate any further, loud knocking interrupted the intense staring contest that was going on between Gwendolen and the others.
"Philadelphia police!" The voice boomed from the other side.
The three let out a disgruntled sigh that was almost collective.
"Looks like you've worn out your welcome already, Charlotte," Liam said. "C'mon Abel, time to fly the coop once again."
Abel nodded and quickly headed towards the open window Gwendolen had come through. In the blink of an eye, he was already gone.
"I hope you know what you're getting yourself into," I heard Liam say to Gwendolen before he swiftly exited behind Abel.
"Come on," Gwendolen said sternly, not even waiting for me to follow her as she leapt out of the window. Slowly I approached the window, eyeing it cautiously as more knocks pounded on the door behind me. I popped my head out of the window suddenly overcome with a fear of heights as I peered down the four story drop to the ground from my window.
Gwendolen appeared on the ground, looking up at me. "Come on! We haven't got all night!" She whispered loudly.
Closing my eyes I leapt out the window as the others had, only to fall four stories down the large tree that sat right outside my dorm window. So that was how they did that. I continued to fall, hitting almost every branch on the way down. I landed on the ground with a loud thud.
"You're lucky you're already dead," Gwendolen said, offering me her hand.
"Thanks," I responded, trying to dust the dirt off of my pants.
"My car is right there, let's go," she said, once again not even waiting for me to follow.
"Are you a vampire, too?" I asked innocently, trying to catch up with her.
Gwendolen let out a laugh like I had just told her the funniest joke of all time.
"No," she said.
"Then why did they let me go?"
"Because they know when they're beat," she said, tossing herself into her car. Her car was a slick black Mercedes that made even me, not even a car aficionado, jealous. I had never even heard of this model, but from the looks of it, it was probably extremely expensive.
"If you aren't a vampire, then what are you?" I asked
"You wouldn't even believe me if I told you," she said, starting the car and turning up the radio, flushing out any conversation we probably could have had.
"Where are we going?" I said loudly.
"I have a friend that might be able to help you, for now," she bellowed over the loud music.
We sat in the car for the rest of the road listening to Gwendolen's choice of music blaring from the speakers. It almost gave me a headache—if I were able to have them. The loud music seemed so much more painful now, louder and more bothersome than ever before.
She drove quickly and sped frequently in areas heavily populated. She was definitely trying to get somewhere faster than ever. It made me wonder if we were in some kind of trouble. Before I knew it, we were parked in front of a large building that seemed to rise endlessly to the top. It almost hurt to try to look at the top of the building.
Gwendolen exited the car swiftly and with such grace that it made me jealous. I followed behind her, feeling like the less glamorous and younger sister desperately trying to keep up with her Hollywood socialite older sister.
"Hello Miss Pettigrew!" The doorman said, smiling eagerly.
"I know how many miles are on it," Gwendolen said before tossing the keys to the doorman and sashaying through the large glass front doors of the building. I followed earnestly behind her, trying to pretend that I fit in.
When we entered the main foyer of the building I was almost floored by its beauty. I looked like we had left Philadelphia behind and instead walked into Versailles itself. Gold paint adorned almost every facet of the embellishments on the wall. The wallpaper was accompanied by many original paintings that I couldn't imagine were painted by anyone else than the likes of Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso.
Gwendolen lead me to the elevator, eagerly pushing the up button. In seconds, the two gold doors opened allowing for us to enter. The inside of the elevator was just as extravagant as the foyer. I went to touch the gold plating of the elevator buttons before Gwendolen stopped me, pressing the button for the top floor.
"Don't touch anything," Gwendolen said as the elevator doors closed slowly in front of us.
The elevator sped so quickly up the floors that it felt like we were almost flying. In moments, the elevator had already stopped and opened to a short hallway covered in the same gold overlays and wallpaper as the rest of the building. At the very end of the hall were two large gold-painted doors. Gwendolen paraded towards the doors knocking on them boldly. The sound of the knocks echoed down the hallways.
She waited impatiently as the door opened slowly to reveal a tall, robust man on the other end. He leaned against the door almost bothered by her appearance at his front door.
"And what do I owe the pleasure of a visit from you?" He said.
Gwendolen moved to the side to reveal me as I stood dumbly in the hallways. I smiled meekly at him. For some reason, he seemed familiar but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. His image burned in my mind as I searched through what little memories I still had.
He only glanced at me before he turned back to Gwendolen. "Another charity case?" He said.
"Just let us in," she said curtly.
"Why bother asking when I know you'll just barge in anyway?" He said, disembarking from is doorway and retreating back into the apartment, leaving the door wide open.
I heard the steady whistling of "Camptown Races" echo in the back of my mind as I looked at him. Slowly but surely, I remembered where I had last seen him.