Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blood is Thicker than Water: Transformation

(author's note: I'm giving you a double dose this week, as I will be at two conferences in the upcoming month. Hope you enjoy it!)

Dalia led me to them and Marcus clenched my hand. His eyes sparkled as he looked at me, and I was myself the way he saw me, young and vital. Shalimar spoke to me in a command that shook me to my marrow. “You will join!”

“Yes!” the crowd whispered in religious fervor.

“Yes!” I said, joining in with them.

Then they were all upon me. The crowd surrounded us, each ripping the cloth of my gown and snatching pieces of my veil. Shalimar herself clutched my necklace; she broke the chain and the diamond tears cried onto the floor. The monsters scattered for the sparkling stones, the pieces of silk and veil. I later found out these items were their share of me as the new initiate, sort of a commemorative of the event. As they cleared away, I could see my dress was tattered. Still, I felt my eerie calm, and a conviction that I was doing what was best for myself. Whatever happened to me next would be just as natural. Dalia and Marion stepped forward, wrapping me in a cape to cover my shredded garments. Dalia removed what was left of my veil while Marion pulled my hands behind my back roughly.

“Whatever you do,” he whispered, “don’t scream. She hates it when they scream.”

Dalia smoothed my hair and flipped it over my right shoulder. She pulled it toward her firmly, revealing my neck. Shalimar, regal, was beside me.

The other vampires went wild. Shalimar raised her hands in a gesture of silence. “She is one of mine. I make that claim. Do any defy me?”

None of the audience would have dared, but the speech was a necessary formality. Shalimar smiled coldly. “Then she will be my child and Marcus’ bride.”

The spectators cheered again. Shalimar raised a hollow metal stick, pointed on one end. Again, I remembered that Shalimar was special. Why? She had no fangs. Father Stewart hadn’t told me this. I had expected Marcus to bit me. I did not expect Shalimar to pierce my neck with an instrument of torture. The euphoria I was in came away suddenly, a curtain pulling aside to reveal the reality of my situation. I began to struggle, but Marion and Dalia were ready for me and held on tight.

Terror gripped my stomach like ice tongs. Shalimar raised her stick and the crowd chanted her name. Her expression was delight; she thrived on fear. “Please! Don’t!” I yelled, my voice in its terror foreign to me.

“Too late to back away now, Pauline! Much too late for that!” Shalimar drove the stick into my neck. It didn’t hurt as much coming out than going in, because I think I was in shock. She lowered her lips to my skin and drank my blood.

Then she did something I found even more hideous. She slashed her own wrist. Blood shot purple into the air, becoming bright red as it splattered onto the remains of my dress. She clamped her wrist between my lips. “Drink!” she commanded. “Drink!”

The blood filled my mouth. I tried not to swallow, but Dalia pinched my nose shut. I choked and sprayed blood at Dalia, but I swallowed most of it.

Shalimar slapped me, and I crumbled. Marion and Dalia released me, and I fell to my knees, still oozing blood from the wound in my neck. My body felt like thousands of ants were burrowing into me.

The vampires were frenzied. Shalimar towered among them triumphant. The monsters began to feast on each other, ripping and tearing their own skin. Some ran into the night to hunt. Others fell pretty to killing their own kind, mingling bodies, limbs, blood. Shalimar wandered into the crowd, a smile playing on her bloody lips.

Marcus scooped me up. He carried me out of the ballroom and up the wide staircase. “It’s almost over, Polly,” he said softly. “Soon you’ll be one of us, body and soul.”

We were in a large bedroom. Marcus lowered me gently onto the snow white sheets, soon speckled like a robin’s egg with my blood. I was sick with fear. “Marcus, no,” I said feebly.

He laughed at me. “Do you want to die? Because that’s all that’s left.”

I didn’t want to die. But I didn’t want to be undead. I said nothing.

“Polly, look at me.”

No! That was something I would not do! I would not!

“Look at me!” his voice boomed.

My eyes betrayed me, snapping to meet his. He showed himself to me in his aspect as a vampire, and in my controlled state, I was delighted. His eyes were rimmed red, his skin was waxy, unnatural, and his teeth were savage. He curled back his lips and his mouth was full of teeth. Boney hands caressed the side of my head and terror welled in me again.

“Do you want me, Pauline?” His voice was throaty with hunger.

I could do nothing but obey him. “I want you,” I echoed.

His cold lips closed on my neck. His fangs punctured me, and I started in pain as they entered me. At first, he drank greedily. I remembered, oddly, from my research, that to become a vampire you needed three such bites. I was sure Shalimar’s blood didn’t count. She wasn’t a true vampire. How could I keep Marcus from feasting on me again? Would I crave his bite? The books said I would.

Marcus slowed. I had difficulty breathing. My vision mingled with black dots. Once again, Marcus appeared as Apollo to me, and although I have never experienced a man in the Biblical sense, I felt that I had.

Most people conceive that a vampire’s bit is painful. Initially it is. But after you reach a certain point of not return, and after you are almost dead, the sensation of the bit becomes dreamlike. You are drowsy, but wholly aware of the intense pleasure of the drawing of your blood. After you have combated the idea that you are dying, it’s almost soothing to feeling your life come to an end.

Yet, the final terror, the clear realization you are dying, comes at the end, and you try to struggle back to consciousness. I fought when Marcus drew away from me to gather strength, but there was none left in me to gather. I slipped into a blackness that muffled my last spark of life, and then I knew I was dead, a victim of my own foolish vanities, and I would never see my friends or family again.


I awoke on the same bed alone. I was unclean, as though I hadn’t bathed in days. My neck throbbed, and my head ached intolerably. I knew I must have felt as Juliet did when she first woke up from her long drinking binge. I didn’t know whether to cry or cheer at being alive still, and I had no idea what was in store for me next. I staggered out of bed.

My clothes were the same ragged ones that I had been wearing. I hoped to find better ones to escape in, but these would do if they were all I had. Shoes were another matter. I had no shoes and I would need these for travel. I decided to look in the closet. I passed the mirror and saw a reflection that didn’t belong to me. Yet I recognized it. The image was that of the young woman Marcus had planted in my mind.

I was what I had appeared earlier in life, save for some improvements. My nose was perfect. My eyes were captivating. My figure had rounded from spare to hourglass. In short, I was beautiful. As creamy complexioned as Shalimar and Dalia, and as dark in hair and eyes as Shalimar. Had becoming undead changed their beauty as well?

But I couldn’t be a vampire! I had only received one bite! And the fact that I saw myself in the mirror indicated that I couldn’t be one. I was also ravenously hungry. No, I couldn’t be a vampire.

Then I noticed my teeth were too big for my mouth. I smiled at the mirror. I had fangs!

“No!” I panicked. I rushed into the hallway. Marion, who was passing my room, caught my arm as I whizzed by.

“Good morning, Princess,” he said. “You might not want to go prancing around like that. Might make some of the other ladies jealous.”

I kicked him in the shins. He hopped, and let me go. “Fine,” he said. “If you want to get in trouble, go ahead. And here I was going to get you breakfast.”

“Am I one of…you know…”

"You got it, Cakes."

“The books, all of them I’ve read, they said you needed three bites to become a vampire. I’ve only had one. And I can see my reflection in the mirror. And,” I said, jabbing my finger at an open window, “why is it daylight? Why haven’t I been burned to a crisp?” I’d be writing to the authors of those books, let me tell you!

Marion leaned against the wall, like he figured he had a lot of explaining to do, and would be in the hallway for quite awhile. “First off, you can’t believe everything you read. A smart lady like you ought to know that. One bite is all it takes. The mirror is a big fairytale. How’s a beauty like Dalia gonna check out her looks if she can’t see them in the mirror?

"Now the daylight thing—that’s Shalimar. You, me, Marcus, Dalia, we’re the only ones like that. It’s her blood and some sort of sorcery in it. She can only make special ones once in a great while. The last one was me, so now you get to be low man on the totem pole.”

My heart sank. “You mean I’m really a vampire.”

“You new guys.” He shook his head. “Always slow on the uptake. Isn’t that what I just said?”

“I guess it is. What do I do know?”

“Oh, lots of things.” Marion was happy to give me instructions. “Got anybody you want revenge on?”

Abby’s name flashed briefly in my mind. I quickly buried the thought. “No.”

“Well, that takes some of the fun out of it. Hey, there’s always hunting.”

“For blood?” The very thought made me squeamish.

“No. For butterflies. What do you think?”

I shook my head. “No, I could never do that.”

“Suit yourself. But you’re gonna make one awful vampire.” He walked away, and then looked over his shoulder. “Shalimar wants to see you, as soon as you wake up. Change your clothes.”

I’d make a poor vampire, huh? “Of course I’ll make a poor vampire!” I shouted after him. “I didn’t ask for this, you know.”

“Nobody ever really does,” he shot back. “Don’t worry. You’ll come around.”

It had never occurred to me until that moment that all vampires start out as victims. This gave me some philosophical food for thought.

As I dressed myself in some of the clothes Marcus had bought for me the previous day, I found myself wondering how long I had actually been dead. Three days. Weren’t vampires supposed to rise again in three days? I didn’t know if I could trust the books on that one. They’d been wrong about several points so far.

Abby would be worried sick. Surely she would have told her mother and father about our fight by now. As I pinned up my hair, I realized that my being undead threw a wrench in the works of my ever going back to my family and taking well deserved lumps from them. I guess it threw a very large wrench in said works. More philosophical food for thought. Was I even related to them, or were they obligated to me since I had died?

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