Suspicious eyes seemed all about me, following me wherever I went. Paranoia infected the inner recesses of my psyche, not merely from the gaze of my brethren, but from the very cosmos, as though the world watched each step I took. Scrutinized me. Weighed me and found this new manifestation of myself wanting. It disquieted me down to the pit of my soul.
I became a belligerent bastard.
Hunting lost its intrigue. Snapshots of my mortal life ebbed into my consciousness with maddening slowness and tainted the thrill. I would see manifestations of Lydia while feeding, and when the lifeless bodies of my victims dropped to my feet, I saw her face on them. Blinking past the sight did nothing to eliminate the shivers which ran up my spine. A week of flirting with the threshold of insanity brought me face-to-face with the truth. I was a conflicted man with half his memories.
Although the prospect of recalling anything else should have scared me away from exploration I pursued it nonetheless, as much teased as haunted by the gaps in my memory. I spent several nights pondering Lydia’s murder until the distorted memory of the knife sunk deep into her chest caused me to remember ripping her necklace from her throat. I furrowed my brow at the thought. Had I dropped the chain or carried it with me? Through the haze of trauma, I could not remember either way.
It led me to Sabrina one evening. She and I strolled down the corridor, Sabrina tapping her long nails against her chin as she spoke. “What happened to your personal effects?” she asked. “Honestly, I have no idea. Your clothing was covered in blood and the rest were just mortal trivialities.”
We passed another immortal as we walked down the corridor. Sabrina waved to him while I frowned. “Does that mean you threw them away?” I asked.
“The clothing, I'm certain, but Timothy might’ve stored away your other items.” Sabrina stopped and turned to face me. “Why do you want them anyway? Is something the matter?”
I thanked heaven for my sunglasses as my eyes shifted away from her scrutiny. Shrugging, I buried my hands in my pockets. “Not exactly, no. I’m just having some issues with my...” I tapped my head twice. “... Memories.”
Sabrina raised an eyebrow. “What about them?”
“They’re incomplete. I can remember a few bits and pieces, but there are gaps.”
“Why do you need to know such things? That life is over.” Sabrina stepped closer to me, far closer than she had since the days of my awakening. She reached up, her fingers brushing through my hair and tousling the locks. “You are not a mortal any longer, dear. Why trouble yourself with the recollection of being one of those inferior humans we consume? You are forming a new life. Let the past lie in the grave.”
“I know, but it’s important to me.” I caught one of my useless breaths in my throat when her fingertips slid past my cheek, her razor nails dragging across the flesh in a deliberate manner. “I... need to fill these blank spaces in so I can move on. Otherwise, they’ll keep nagging at me.” I attempted a disarming smile. “And we don’t want that, right?”
“You concern me, my son.” One finger coasted past my lips, and then her hand abruptly dropped to her side. She sighed and raised her eyes to mine. “If it will help you put matters to rest, then I will look for your mortal possessions. Beyond the clothing, what were you carrying?”
I glanced away, indulging in a steadying sigh to calm my spirit past the lingering sensation of Sabrina’s touch. Focusing on my blurry memories, I replayed the mental picture of me stabbing Lydia, studying my appearance. “A watch. I’m sure a wallet. Some keys and...”
I paused. The image of Lydia's necklace in my hand shot a tingle through me as I saw my former self slide his hand into his pocket.
“And what?” Sabrina asked.
Shaking off the recollection, I looked at Sabrina again. “And a necklace, I think.” I tried to conceal my enthusiasm over that last object, not having the slightest notion why it held my interest. My nervous gaze met Sabrina’s. “The necklace would at least be worth pawning.”
Sabrina eyed me for a few tentative moments before nodding. “Very well. I will have Timothy look for your personal items.” Without any further words given over to the matter, Sabrina turned and walked away. Two nights later, a small bag containing these items found their way to my doorstep. I took it into my private quarters and dumped its contents onto my unmade bed.
I saw the keys and wallet I expected. The driver’s license verified my identity and my last place of residence, and there was a small amount of money. Other forms of identification and old receipts were tucked into various pockets in my billfold, but no necklace. Sitting on my bed in an exasperated huff, I threw the wallet across the room and shoved the other items onto the floor without any further thought. As my eyes drifted back to the bed, however, I caught sight of something shimmering atop my black sheets.
The thin chain attempted to disappear within the folds of bedding before my fingers pinched around it, allowing me to raise it level with my line of sight. Even through my sunglasses, I noticed dried blood streaked across the pendant, staining two hearts with a thorny rose atop. On an impulse, I licked the blood, but dropped the jewelry when the remnant burned my tongue. I hissed at it on instinct, and then left it with the other discarded items.
Shortly thereafter, the dreams commenced.
These were no mere shadows slipping from behind the veil; full-fledged memories took flight through my mind, painting animated snapshots of my mortal existence in its entirety. I witnessed twisted metal and death. I felt an ancient, psychosomatic ache in my leg. I saw the youth I once was and bolted awake from a sound slumber on more than one occasion as the defining moment in my life played out in nightmares.
Not that it was the first moment I recalled my parents were killed in a car accident. I remembered telling Sabrina about it in the coffee shop, but it had lacked any depth of detail. Now, it was vivid. John and Marjorie Dawes gained life and lost it just as quickly as reverie gifted it to them. I was a petrified thirteen year old when they died, and their death changed the entire course of the rest of my life.
My father, a service veteran, met my mother in England and they married within months. Home became a farm in the middle of Pennsylvania and together, my parents created an environment of discipline and faith, one that possessed the warmth found in television shows and wistful paperbacks. I was a headstrong only child, but never had cause to question my parents’ love for me.
It all ended in a car accident, giving birth to the real Peter Dawes.
The ambulance carried me, the sole survivor, from the scene with a compound fracture in my right leg. It left an indelible mark on me, even after I was sent to live with my father's sister in the suburbs of Philadelphia. An uncertain future as an orphaned boy with an aunt and uncle he barely knew left me petrified as it was, but lingering memories of the accident also haunted me. I found myself reliving the hell of watching two parents succumb to their injuries even after the first of two surgeries to repair my broken leg. Tears were shed at the funeral, but no more after that. The rest of the time was spent ruminating on a fledgling form of survivor’s guilt.
Had I been a doctor, the possibility existed that I could have saved them. After a short while spent musing on this notion, my mouth opened with questions for my physician during my post-operation examinations. How did he come to practice medicine? What type of schooling did he receive? The singular motivation to become a doctor possessed me and the saint who emerged from the carnage of a mangled automobile held a near religious passion to save souls with a stethoscope and scalpel. Everyone I met from that point forth saw the would-be doctor and extolled my determination.
Now, I murdered the lot of them with my teeth.
The ghosts railed at me.
My mother joined Lydia in the chorus. A transplanted German, she lived in Great Britain for half her life and developed a strange accent in the process; a confluence of Bavarian and British which stretched across the years to accuse me of my sins. “You let the devil in, Peter,” she said. “And now you’ve become a demon yourself.”
My father regarded me through the sweat of his brow – the man who instilled in me the work ethic which pushed me through medical school. “Have you forgotten what you were?” he asked. “You used to care for people, Pete. Remember what I told you – if you lose your love for others, then you risk losing your humanity.”
I held my head in both hands, screaming past the sound of all the people who knew Dr. Peter Dawes. “Who are you?” they asked. “Where is the Peter we loved?” I spent nights arguing with them, my wandering footsteps leading me throughout Philadelphia as the vampire sought to feed and the mortal died a little more with every human that was consumed. Two months past my awakening, the dualism had me so at odds with myself, I agonized over every person I stalked.
When I fed, though, I reveled in the taste again. I wore a wicked smile and drank deep until the demise of one sated the needs of the other. The fledgling vampire did not wish to give his life and yet, mortal and immortal sides could not reconcile. The voices persisted in their mission to silence the blood thirst. They might have succeeded if not for one thing.
Their sainted doctor was a hypocrite. The immortal gritted his teeth and issued a response. “An impostor,” I said. “No benevolent doctor kills two people in cold blood, one the woman he was going to marry. He had all of you fooled. The man was as much a murderer as the vampire he begged to become.” When the ghosts could not issue a response, my new nature planted its roots deep.
My erratic behavior did not go unnoticed, though. The coven watched me lose my grip and listened as I carried on inside the confines of my private quarters. I railed and ranted until the walls shook. I fought immortal thirst during nights when the chilling memories kept me indoors, though it drove me mad with hunger in the process. My outbursts sent my housemates clamoring to Sabrina for relief when it got to be too much.
Peter the vampire was going insane. Something needed to be done.
Ten weeks after my awakening, sunset heralded another night in the battle of a tortured immortal faced with shaking off the relics of his past. I sat on my bed, fingers tangled in my hair as I shuddered through an escalating craving for blood. The whole manic episode came to a head with a knock at my door. Shooting a quick look at the entryway, I furrowed my brow when a voice followed the gentle tapping. “Dear Peter,” Sabrina said with a hint of annoyance in her voice. “Please open up, I wish to speak with you.”
I stood and walked to the door, dizzy from the effort, but not about to have Sabrina enter and see the state of my quarters. When I opened the door, I stood behind the gap, holding it just barely ajar. Sabrina raised an eyebrow at me with her lips pursed in a frown. “How long will you do this to yourself?” she asked. “I’ve been told you continue to torture yourself and the people around you and have grown quite irritable in the process. This is becoming taxing, Peter. It must stop.”
I was forced to look downward. “I don’t know what to do about it,” I said, my voice a hoarse whisper.
“About what, dear son?”
I shook my head.
Sabrina grabbed my chin, forcing me to look her in the eyes. “Tell me why you have been in such a foul mood lately or I shall take those glasses away and leave you to writhe in pain in a well-lit room. First, Michael tells me you have been acting snippy with him. Then, you ask for your old personal effects. And now, you have become insufferable – locking yourself within your quarters. Carrying on, being a nuisance to your brethren, who all tell me you have gone insane.” She paused expectantly, her eyes shooting flames at me. “I demand a response from you.”
I could no longer hold back the words. “Ghosts, Sabrina. I keep... seeing people I knew when I was mortal. They’ve been torturing me and I can’t shut them up.”
“So, you become the coven terror.” Sabrina forced the door open and grabbed my hand. “Come now, Peter. We will converse in the common area. You have need of removing yourself from this room.”
After weeks of wrestling, I had no resolve with which to fight her. I acquiesced to the coaxing, even when I spied a group of onlookers watching from the hallway, snickering at me. I sneered back as I closed the door to my room. Then I followed Sabrina to the staircase.
Neither of us spoke as we began to descend. Sabrina broke the stillness gently. “I told you at your awakening that this would not be easy and, in some regard, I think I took too much for granted when I saw you embrace this new life you were given. Your memories have not been kind. I had no idea they would cause this much pain.”
“There are constant voices, Sabrina,” I said, eyes focused straight ahead. “Every time I try to feed or sleep, I see those I used to know, reprimanding me for being a vampire. Sometimes I see their faces on my victims.” I frowned, shaking my head. “I feel like it’s going to rip me in two.”
“Rip you in two?”
“Into this bleeding heart mortal that listens to the voices and the immortal that still enjoys the kill.”
Sabrina nodded, but said no more. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, we turned toward the grand parlor where my brethren once received me with open arms. Now, the reception was lacking. They watched me with disdain, prompting me to avert my eyes while Sabrina received nods and bows of respect, which she reciprocated.
I indulged one glance upward, however, when I sensed someone studying me from across the room. My eyes countered Michael’s dare, but only for a moment. Suppressing a hiss of rebuke, I looked back at Sabrina. She paused beside two empty chairs.
Sabrina sat and crossed her legs. “I fear you are on the path to self-destruction,” she said sighing, her eyes shifting away. “And this would be a pity, not only to us, but for the vampire collective as a whole, if we were to lose a being such as you.”
“What? A brooding, neophyte vampire?” I asked as I dropped, defeated, into the chair beside hers.
“You don’t know all ends to this matter.” Sabrina paused, as if turning a notion around in her mind before nodding to herself and folding her hands atop her lap. “I didn’t plan on telling you this for some time, but you need a bit of motivation. Child, there is more to your identity than even you know.”
I scoffed. “What the hell does that mean?”
“Your eyes. You’ve dealt with this handicap, but have not asked me why they are this way since the first night you woke.”
“You mean you know the reason for this?”
“Yes, or, at least what I suspect is the case. You are a unique being. It is difficult to know for certain that one matter has caused the other.”
“Sabrina I have no idea what you’re...”
“You have the Second Sight,” Sabrina said, interrupting me. “Gifts beneath the surface which have yet to emerge. Your infirmity is the sign of something greater.”
“You call this a gift?” I pointed at my sunglasses. “All I see is a curse.”
“Only because you choose to look at it that way.”
“Is there any other way to see it? If it tortures us so much to be vampires then why don’t we all just kill ourselves and be done with it?”
“You are the tortured one, child.” Sabrina frowned at me. “You are the one who has allowed these visitors from your past to dictate what your life is worth and now, you see ill where you should find delight.”
I sighed, studying the rug beneath my chair. “Delight in what?”
Sabrina inched forward in her seat, her body angling towards me. I looked into her eyes again. “Do you not recall it? The way it felt when you fed from your first victim? Have you not experienced it since then when you have killed? When you last relished the blood of the feed and allowed yourself to experience it as only immortals can?"
“I don’t know. I can’t even enjoy the kill anymore.”
“Because you look at immortality like a mortal. You are not one any longer. You are something far better.” Sabrina grinned. “A higher being, if you will. And you, with gifts precious few creatures possess. Bonded to immortal form, they could make you a formidable vampire someday if you allowed yourself to become what you are destined to be.”
I shook my head. “I think you’re telling me what you think I want to hear. I don’t have any special talents.”
“I speak the truth.”
“Then explain this second sight bullshit.”
Sabrina shrugged. “You will recognize it when you see it. It will never find you, though, if you continue to cower instead of evolving into the creature you were meant to become.”
“Evolving?” I huffed, pointing about the room as I spoke. “I look at the others and don't see evolution. I see a group of lazy, decadent immortals. They hate me and I hate them, too.”
She smirked. “You are part of a coven. Everything you fire at your brethren will be returned tenfold. They see your inability to assimilate and think you spiteful, Peter.”
Cringing away, I all but spat, “I hate when you call me that.” The words were laden with disgust.
Sabrina hesitated before replying. “When I call you what? Peter?”
“Yes, when you call me Peter. I don’t know who the hell I am now, but every voice inside my head makes sure to tell me that I’m not Peter any longer. I get sick and tired of hearing it.”
My brow knitted at the sight of Sabrina’s eyes. Her impish orbs of brown danced with amusement, ruby lips curled in a smile. “Well then, dark son,” she said. “If you dislike the name and wish to distance yourself from this Peter who troubles you, why don’t you change it?”
“Change my name?” A sardonic chuckle rose from my chest. “If I change it, then Michael won’t be able to call me Peter the Blind anymore.”
Sabrina laughed and I could not help but succumb to a quick grin. “You harbor such disdain for him,” Sabrina said. “I have never seen two vampires in the same coven so at odds with each other. Again, you fail to take note of your attitude, though. What you dish to him will be returned.”
“I don't dish anything to him.”
“A proper amount of respect might be nice. He is my second-in-command, after all.”
“Right, sure.” I narrowed my eyes. “Maybe when he shows me a little respect, first.”
Sabrina sighed. “There is much Michael could teach you. You could become fast friends.”
“When hell freezes over.” Looking away, I frowned, moving back to the point at hand. “So, what am I failing to do, then?”
Sabrina touched my face, directing my attention back to her. As our eyes met, she stared as though she could behold the bright, blue irises staring back at her through the lenses of my glasses. It unnerved and excited me all at once. She could have kissed me and I would have plunged into the embrace without a second thought. She kept her distance, however, while still maintaining that intimate closeness.
“You are not the same being you once were,” she said. “You are the vampire who rose and sank his teeth into that mortal girl, regardless of what these shadows of your past try to tell you. You can feel him, can you not, my dark son? The creature you are within?”
I nodded in a daze. “I feel him every time I kill.” Thoughts of feeding reawakened the thirst in me, causing a deep groan to ebb from my throat before I could stop it. “Oh, the taste of blood is incredible.”
“Yes, it is, isn’t it?” Sabrina leaned closer still, her cheek brushing against mine before her lips touched my ear. “That is the vampire, my dear. Stop stifling him with the artificial heartbeat of humanity. That siren call is your true self speaking. And when you embrace your nature, you will discover gifts that would make the lot of your brethren jealous.” Sabrina backed away enough to wink at me. “Michael included.”
My eyes met hers. “What do I do, then, Sabrina?”
Sabrina smiled. “Find a new identity, my unnamed one, and bid the mortal within to remain dead where we ended him. You found your escape from the mortal world covered in the blood of those who dared to trifle with the dark killer you were meant to be. Peter is dead and you thrive. Silence the voices with the blood you consume.”
I felt her place a kiss on my cheek before she stood and patted me on my shoulder. As she walked away with a lithe, carefree air about her, I found myself likening Sabrina to an angel and felt a loyalty to her in that moment unlike any I had experienced before. With a sigh, I stared until she left the room, and then focused on the others milling around me.
I studied those bound to me as immortal brethren, attempting to connect with them. They spoke amongst themselves, drinking wine and blood while reclining about plush couches and pillowed chairs as though content to waste away eternity in slothful decadence. I frowned. Perhaps I did need a new identity, but I could not abide by the prospect of being such an utter waste of space.
I stood, but had to steady myself through a wave of dizziness. Yes, something had to change. I could not spend eternity scared of my own shadow, ignoring my base needs. Crossing to a pair of vampires engaged in conversation, the hallowed argument resurfaced in my mind while I snatched a glass of blood from a dark-haired vampiress named Rebecka. “Your doctor was a hypocrite,” I said aloud, draining the contents of the glass in one drought before wiping the remnant from my mouth and throwing the empty goblet at its previous owner.
Rebecka gasped in horror. I ignored her. The eyes of my brethren shifted toward me, undoubtedly wondering ‘what the devil Peter was doing’ while I continued my argument. “You defend him and you tell me what to be, but none of you bastards can tell me why he killed his girlfriend. I don’t give a shit if you think he was a saint, or not. Saints don’t slash through two people.” I continued walking until I stopped in front of a set of Japanese swords mounted to the wall beside Asian-themed tapestries. My hand lifted to caress one of the blades without breaking my train of thought. I smiled. “Argue all you want, but there’s your real doctor. He’s a killer, just like me.”
“So, he speaks to himself like a madman. What the others say about you losing your mind is true.”
I turned at the sound of Michael’s voice, seeing him standing behind me with his hands tucked inside the pockets of his fine linen pants. The regal, pompous bane of my existence, clad in a suit, his hair tied back once again as though the Victorian era came and departed while leaving him behind. “I’m sorry,” I said. “Was that directed at me?”
Michael raised an eyebrow. “I don’t see who else I would be talking to, unless you have imaginary people to accompany the voices in your head.”
I shrugged and looked back toward the wall. “Doesn’t matter either way. I plan on ignoring them now.”
“You don’t have the resolve to accomplish that.”
Turning my head to regard him again, I furrowed my brow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re weak.” Michael narrowed his eyes at me. “I’ve known that from the start, when you were writhing on that bed like we’d set you on fire. And you have been utterly useless ever since.”
“Oh, I see,” I said, smirking. “So, I take it that you rose and immediately became the king of all vampires.”
“I didn’t scream like a stuck pig.” He folded his arms behind his back and walked two, measured paces around to my side as if sizing me up. I shifted to face him fully and allowed him to continue. “Utterly useless,” he repeated, eyes surveying me from head to foot. “Nothing more than a deathless mortal. And an insane one, at that. You will be nothing but a burden to this coven for all of your miserable existence.”
“You have a lot of room to talk, you reject from an antique store.” I shook off a wave of irritation as it surfaced. “You call me a madman? Well, what does speaking with a madman make you?”
Michael huffed. “As if your words could wound me. You are no better than our prey, Peter the Blind.”
I felt my fangs start to peek from their hiding place, and clenched my jaw to hold them back. “I’m going to love having a new identity and telling you to shove that pet name up your ass.”
“A new identity?”
I stepped closer to him. “Yes, I’m choosing another name. Going for a change of pace.”
“So we can mock another moniker instead?” Michael smirked.
“No, so I can show you just how little you actually know about other people. You’re nothing more than an arrogant prick.”
He laughed and I saw his fangs slumbering inside a sea of porcelain. “Bold words for an arrogant neophyte afraid of his own shadow. Do you think me just weaned from my mother's breast? I have lived for many years while you have barely left a footprint on this mortal coil.”
The corner of my mouth curled. I closed our distance with another stride. “How old does that make you, then?” I asked.
Michael's blue eyes steadily held mine behind the sunglasses. “One hundred and one years, with thirty-two mortal years prior to that.”
My eyebrow rose in defiance. “And in all those years, you never checked the calendar?” Tension filled the space between us. “You look like you haven’t left the last century.”
“And you speak as though you were not educated in this one.”
“You don’t know anything about me,” I spat.
“Allow me to enlighten you,” Michael said, a smirk enveloping his countenance that possessed such smugness, it made his words drip with malice. “I can tell you have no clue what you are now. That you have no notion of what it is to be an immortal despite what others have attempted to teach you, and as such, do not deserve that title.” He paused. “I can tell one other thing, too.”
“Oh?” I asked. I held his gaze and reciprocated it measure for measure. “What would that be?”
Michael's grin broadened. “That I have a coward of a being standing before me, not having the strength or the genitalia to keep his mortal girl happy. Little wonder she sought greener pastures. I would have as well.”
The anger bubbling up inside me burst in a glorious spectacle of fist meeting face. I punched Michael across his jaw before he could dodge the blow. The impact sprawled him on the ground, blood running from a cut on his lip, but I had no chance to relish the moment. Michael swiftly came to his feet and hissed at me, fangs elongated.
He wished a fight?
I hissed in return, more than willing to oblige.
Michael swung for me. I moved out of the way prior to impact, but failed to dodge his other fist when it came for my face. He avoided breaking my sunglasses only by a hair’s breadth and I determined not to give him a second chance. I grappled with him, attempting to pin one of his arms, but resorted to throw another punch that smashed him on the cheek.
A crowd was gathering around us as Michael threw me off him. The force sent me flying into the group of onlookers, knocking several off balance. They remained on the floor while I came unsteadily to my feet, woozy from hunger. Rage compensated for what I lacked in nourishment, though, and powered the violent swings I threw in Michael’s direction when I charged back in. He dodged one and captured my hand with the next, crushing my fist with all the immortal strength he could summon. I gasped in pain, but was close enough to knee him in the stomach in instinctive retaliation. The blow doubled him over and freed my hand from his grip. I stepped back and followed it through by connecting my foot with his chest, taking him off his feet again.
Hate shot from Michael’s eyes as he stood, hair half-hanging out of his ponytail, suit rumpled and askew. His hands balled into two weapons as he stalked me. The intimidating look should have been accompanied by venom dripping from his fangs, and caused me to take another step back. The full measure of a vampire pounced at me and before I had a chance to react, he hefted me by the fabric of my shirt and snarled into my face. “I care little for what she says you are,” he hissed. “You were a mistake.”
Michael threw me. The door which separated the adjoining room buckled and splintered as I crashed through it, and when I landed on tiled flooring on the other side, the second impact completely knocked my glasses from my face.
The effect was instantaneous as light seared my retinas with exquisite pain. I wailed in agony while cupping one hand over my violated eyes.
A shiver ran up my spine. I rolled onto my stomach and groped with my free hand for my sunglasses. It took several frustrating seconds for my fingers to locate the frames and slip them where they belonged. No sooner did I come to my knees with glasses on, though, than a sharp point touched my throat just above my Adam’s apple.
Opening my eyes, I swallowed hard and looked up to find Michael standing before me, a European-styled sword in hand. “Beg for your life,” he said, “And I might allow you to retain it.”
In the perfect position for doing just that, I strangely found myself smiling when my eyes adjusted. Knives and swords, some hanging on the walls and others situated on display shelves like prized jewels, were arranged around the room. Sabrina’s armory surrounded me, whispering sweet temptation into my ears.
I looked back at my older, more regal brother, and sneered.