5. HOLD ON TO LOVE

Adam stood still, staring at the reflection of a TV store's flickering neon sign in a lowly murky puddle in the middle of a street. Something in the light seemed to call to him. It seemed to be saying something. He turned around and there was a stack of TVs in the display window. An array of screens, a jarring pixel image flashing across their monitors. A cloaked, torn figure marching through wastelands, holding a large machete. Stomping a tired way through wastelands. The image flashed away, and the screen was black. And then, in a blink of an eye - the words HOLD ON TO LOVE flooded the screen.

The bag of groceries already hitting the ground as a loud crash sounded in the world around him. His dinner, a half price can of generic brand green beans, rolled down the sidewalk, clanked off the edge into the street, and continued on its way, through the rain, never to be eaten. An icecube tray splitting in half. Garlic crying. Adam held his face in his hands.

"Chava," he whispered.

A strong wind wailed against him, and despite it being winter a warm buttery breeze that squeezed his hand with desperation. The smell of roses and lillies wafted into his subconscious. He lifted his head up, slowly, to read the words floating across the television screens.

THIS WORLD WAS MADE FOR YOU AND ME

"Chava," he screamed. "If you can hear me: I still love you."

The wind died down and the screens turned off, black as coal in an underground mine shaft, and everything was at peace once more.


4. A VAMPIRE AND A BANK HEIST

The line was long that summer day. Brooke was just happy to be inside, but the endless number of people waiting ahead of her made her wish to be elsewhere. Perhaps even in the sun - withering away and dying. God, she was so melodramatic.

Her fingernails tapped against the granite counter she leaned against, its cool core resonating against her own. She stared out at the lobby and spotted a man reclined in an armchair, presumably waiting for an appointment. He was just sitting there, reclined at just about a 45 degree angle, with a neck - dare she even think it! - with bulging, throbbing rope-like jugular veins. She could almost taste the blood beating through those puppies. Jugular vein distention never looked so appetizing.

But a heat wave blasted her into distraction as someone barged into the bank through the entrance doors. Someone in a pinstripe suit and fedora, aiming a sawed off shotgun right at her teller. There were two goons in tow, dressed rather similarly. One was wearing a bowler hat. The bank grew silent as the bank robbers approached the bank teller. The head robber barked at the teller, "Give us all the money this bank's got if you want to keep your brain in your skull."

"Not again," the teller wailed. "This is the third time this week!"

The robber fired a shot into the crowd. The wandering bullet struck a person at random, little old Hanny Griffith who sits at the front pew in church every Sunday. Well, not anymore, that is. The teller looked back at the robbers. The robber declared, "Next shot's yours. Hand over the cash."

The teller told them to wait a moment as he retrieved the cash from the vault. He handed it to them, and they went on their ways. Departed from the bank until the next Tuesday.

With little old Hanny Griffith carted away to the city morgue, Brooke was able to move up one space in line, which she was very happy about. All in all, she reflected, it was a very good day at the bank.


3. IT'S ALL OVER NOW

"I miss you."

Chava's chest rose and fell, slowly, over and over. The monitor beeped beside her.

"I'm so sorry."

Adam took her hand and squeezed it.

"I'm an idiot."

He gazed at her bandage-wrapped face. He could hardly see through the gauze. Her eyes were closed. She looked almost serene.

"It's all my fault."

Her belongings were sitting in a plastic bag on a chair across the room. He got up and held it in his hands, trying to see what was inside. Her favorite baby blue turtleneck. A cross-patterned skirt from her private school days. Those mittens she bought with him after that movie they both hated. A coat she borrowed from her mother, who borrowed it from her mother. Half a boot.

"You did nothing to deserve this."

His eyes tracked back to where she was laid out, a metal contraption encasing her and holding her right leg in traction. A peg drilled right through her bone. The Thomas splint.

"What did I do to you?"

The IV infusion pump beeped. He ran to it and looked at the screen. CHECK LINE, it said. He did. It was fine. And suddenly everything was fine. He breathed - for the first time.

"It was an accident."

He pressed the RESUME button on the infusion pump and sat back down at the chair next to her. He watched her breaths, her chest rising and falling again and again. Still, for days on end. It had been a month since the accident.

"I love you."

He remembered it being dark and cold. It was wet, too, because their car had launched into the middle of the Moon River. They had hit a pedestrian along the way. But he was thrown from the car, and Chava was trapped inside. Thirty feet down. He had felt his heart sink that low, as well. He was a good swimmer, and he made it all the way down there - somehow. It was a miracle he found the car down there at all. And then the ambulances and the firetrucks roared through town as quick as bullets, and a scuba team had assembled to rescue her before she drowned. The panic as the minutes ticked by, his shoulders covered with a warm, dry, wool blanket as he looked on from the shore, as he waited and prayed for her body to surface. The image not registering as a body and two detached legs were wheeled past him, a crying, sad man in tow. It wasn't Chava. It had been the longest quarter of an hour of his life.

"It's all over now."

He was back in the hospital room, listening to the melodic, beautiful harmony of the medical equipment beeping. Chava was rescued, eventually. And her heart was beating and she was alive. The doctors told him and her mother not to be optimistic. She might never breathe on her own again. Her eyes might never look at the world again. But Chava - somewhere - deep down - was still in there. Alive.

"You're safe now."


2. DANCING

Off in the distance, in the middle of a swampy meadow, Juniper was dancing. From the road on the side, Ellin and Dheepa looked on with mystic wonder bouncing into their eyes. They watched her entrancing movements.

Slowly, they turned to look at each other. Dheepa said quietly, "She's embarrassing herself."

"No wonder she's such an airhead in clinical," Ellin complained.

The sky opened up over them and poured drops of sulfurous rain onto them. Juniper kept up her kicking and swaying.

Ellin rolled her eyes. "Is she looking for attention?"

"There's no reason why anyone should be out here on a day like today," Dheepa griped.

"Of course not," Ellin agreed. "Not at all."

A bolt of lightening ripped through the sky, hitting some tree off in the distance. From the bare, long road, Dheepa and Ellin looked on at Juniper and her persistant fluidations. Juniper was a sight to see, standing tall above the rest of the blades of grass. In unison, they stated, "She's going to die out there."

The meadow became unusually still.

A shock of thunder roared like a passing cargotrain. Dheepa and Ellin watched Juniper still.

"Who could stand out there, in the rain and lightening and thunder, and keep dancing like an idiot?" Dheepa said.

Ellin sighed. "She's crazy, that one."

And Juniper danced on.


1. FOREVER AND A DAY

"Brooke, what's it like being a vampire?"

Their tired feet hung in the lazy Moon River. It had been a long day in the hospital.

Brooke leaned back, soaking in the sun, sunblock glistening off her skin. "I haven't thought much about it. It's what it is."

"It's a huge part of your life that I feel you can't really talk much about."

"I suppose," Brooke conceded. She closed her eyes and folded her arms across her chest. "I suppose if I had to describe, it'd be like living for forever and a day. On and on again. The bad days and the good days - over and over. Endless love," she looked over at Simon and smiled, before sighing. "Endless sadness. Love is so fleeting."

"I'm sorry."

The sun began its fall back into despairing darkness. The mountains on the horizon started to choke away the last few rays of hope. Brooke took Simon's hand and placed it over her heart.

"Don't be."