Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Soul Splitter - 1

Corwyn watched me through the cell bars. "You've already mastered astral travel," he said.

I raised an eyebrow. "Is that what we're calling it now?"

"Everyone is on edge. Madeleine has moved into a guest room and won't let Étienne touch her. Her eyes burn with hatred every time she sees Kara. And Kara always looks like she's ready to take Étienne out if he makes the wrong move. Everyone's rattled and not sleeping well, and it's all your doing isn't it?"

"Let me go and you can all get back to your boring little lives."

Corwyn leapt up high on the bars and grabbed hold, suspended ten feet in the air. "You have no idea what my life is like," he said. He crawled around the perimeter of the cell at an amazingly fast speed, still up in the air. I followed him with my eyes. His movement seemed magical, so smooth and graceful, yet so unlike anything I had ever seen.

"Some of us may be bored," he said. "But not for the reasons you think."

Suddenly he was inside my cell, directly over me on the ceiling. I felt uneasy and tried to call out to Kara. Our link seemed to be broken.

Corwyn rattled the cell door and he was suddenly standing outside, on the floor. "I knew Jesus of Nazareth."

His face was suddenly inches from my own and I jolted back against the stone slab I was chained to.

"I knew Siddhartha Guatama, the Buddha." His eyes glowed a piercing violet light, nothing human about them.

He grabbed me hard, pulling me up. The shackles on my arms and legs tore into my skin and I screamed. Surely Kara would hear me.

The violet glow in his eyes grew brighter and brighter, swirling into a vortex, a force tugging at me deep inside. It felt like my shackles would sever my hands. I struggled to speak, but it was no use.

Hands, two, no four hands grabbing me. The whole room was consumed in the vortex of blinding swirling light. Something was ripping me apart, tearing me in two, not only my body, but my mind, my being. The pain was overwhelming.

Darkness slammed into me and everything went silent. I couldn't see. I couldn't hear. I couldn't feel.

I heard Kara's voice suddenly, echoing from a great distance.

"Oh my God, what have you done!"

Monday, May 30, 2005

Caged - 8

The morning light had spread out over the land, giving life to everything alive and threatening destruction to the undead. Madeleine opened her eyes and reached over the sheets.

"Étienne, I can't sleep."

Her hand found only emptiness.


She sat up and looked around the dark room. A gust of cold air blew across her skin and she shivered, clutching her arms close to her body.

She glided out of bed and slipped into her favorite long white silk robe. Her bare feet were cold on the hardwood floor. Madeleine opened the bedroom door and peered down the dark hallway. She yawned and rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

Étienne is always up during the day, absorbed into his many interests, she thought. Lately he's been making trumeau mirrors, spending hours carving decorative designs on the frame and top panel.

She walked down the hallway and saw the light peeking out from under the guest bedroom. Now that's an odd place to be working. She heard strange sounds coming from behind the door. Sounds like someone was not feeling well. A flash of panic came upon her. Had Étienne hurt himself? Had the sunlight reached him?

She opened the door and hurried into the room.

Her eyes refused to register what she was seeing. Self-preservation kicking in. Shapes on the bed. Bare skin. Sweat. Panting. Two naked bodies, the man on top of the woman, her legs wrapped around his back. He was thrusting into her again and again as they moaned.

Their forms came into focus and Madeleine's stomach knotted up. Her body began to shake. She opened her mouth to say something but only a feeble wail came out.

The two figures turned their heads to look at her. Étienne's eyes were glazed over as he continued to move, his pace increasing. And the woman just smiled.


Madeleine screamed and bolted upright in bed, covered in sweat. Étienne woke up beside her and put his hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay?" he asked.

Madeleine brushed his hand away and drew her knees up to her chest, hugging them, her eyes wide with betrayal and hatred.

"It was just a nightmare," Étienne said.

Madeleine ignored him and stared off into space.

I slowly retreated from Madeleine's mind, slowly so she would have no idea I had been there, silently terminating the link between us forged by the little ones, softly pulling my subtle life-essence out of her head and back downstairs. Down back into my body, shackled to a stone slab in the dungeon cell.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Caged - 7

"Thank you, Kara," Corwyn said. "Now you can understand my unique ability. With the help of the little ones, my life essence, along with my memories, can leave my body at will. It is normally invisible to the naked eye, but for some reason Shiva can see me when I do it."

"And I thought you were a ghost," I said.

"I can't interact with the physical world when I leave my body," he said. "So I guess 'ghost' is an appropriate term."

"How does this solve our dilemma?" Étienne asked.

"I also have the ability to split my life essence, and inhabit two or three bodies at the same time." Corwyn stared at me, studying me like a curious science experiment. "I believe that Shiva has this ability, too. He can see me in my subtle form, and that was the first signs I experienced long ago."

"So," Kara said, "we split him up into two different bodies, then remove Sparky from one of the bodies?"

Corwyn nodded. "Very good."

"Shiva lives and we get Sparky back," Étienne said.

"And you kill me the second you get Sparky back," I said.

"It won't work," Kara said. "Even if we let Shiva go first, it's doubtful he'd release Sparky from the other body. We can't trust him."

"I promise I'll be good," I said. "I'll let Sparky go free after I'm safely away, and I promise not to kill anyone. Well, at least not anyone who doesn't have it coming."

Kara cracked a smile and then frowned. "I hate it when you do that," she said.

"Do what?"

"Do something that reminds me of Sparky."

"But I am Sparky," I said. "And that's what really bothers you most, isn't it? Underneath it all, I am Sparky. And I know everything about you, Kara. I know where you like to be touched. I know what you sound like when you come."

Kara laughed, this time a condescending laugh. "You always push it too far, don't you, Shiva? Something happens to make me think of you as something slightly less than a monster, and then you ruin it."

"You only hate me because I remind you of what's lurking inside of you. I'm what you can become, and you don't want to face that."

"No," Kara said. "The only thing you are is pathetic."

And then they left me alone with the two vampire guards.

I'll show them who's pathetic.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Caged - 6

I stared at Corwyn, struggling to maintain my composure. "What the hell are you?"

Corwyn ignored me. "Étienne, I may have a solution to your dilemma."

"Should we discuss this upstairs?" Étienne asked.

"No," Corwyn said. "It's best if Shiva doesn't think we're plotting against him."

I chuckled. "You all want me dead. How is that not plotting against me?"

Corwyn continued to ignore me. "Kara, please explain how the little ones brought you here."

Madeleine suddenly started walking toward the stairs, and I could feel the anger inside her fighting to come out. Étienne seemed torn between following her and staying with us.

Kara motioned toward Madeleine. "Go, Étienne."

Étienne started toward Madeleine and she put her hand up for him to stop. He stopped. "Do you always do whatever she tells you to?" Madeleine said. She ran up the stairs and out the door, slamming it shut.

Étienne appeared completely helpless for a moment and I couldn't help but smirk.

"The little ones," Kara said, "have to travel through immense gravitational fields in order to cross vast distances. Any organic life-form would be too big and too fragile to survive. So the little ones figured out how to extract our -- I'm not sure how to translate this -- our life essence. You might call it a soul, but it is a physical substance. Science on this planet can't detect it, but it is real. But it's devoid of any memories, or the personality that developed during our lifetime. So they also extract our memories and transport them separately."

Kara turned to me. "Sparky is Shiva's life essence without his memories or personality. Imagine Shiva as a baby, before his soul became corrupted. That's our Sparky."

Give me a friggin' break. Imagine Sparky when he finally got a clue. That's Shiva.

Kara continued. "Since there's no way that our bodies can be transported here, we have to be placed into host bodies, and the little ones restore our memories. We inherit much from the memories of our hosts. Sparky's host died of an aneurism moments before we arrived, and the little ones had to act fast. They put him into a goldfish. But the memories wouldn't work inside a goldfish."

"You killed her," I said.

"What?" Kara said.

"You killed Kara, if that was her name. The young woman whose body you are in. A completely innocent young woman. Her whole life ahead of her. You took her life away. Just like that."

Kara's eyes went cold.

"You're just like me," I said.

Kara said nothing. She really couldn't argue this point.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Caged - 5

I was still in the cell, but now they had me lying down, shackled to the top of a large stone slab several of the vampires had brought in. An IV fed fresh blood into my veins, and two guards were posted just outside the cell. Apparently wood from a stake damages a vampire worse than any other substance, and I wasn't healing at the usual accelerated pace.

The door at the top of the stairs opened and Étienne walked through, followed by Madeleine and Kara. And then I watched myself walk through. I shook my head, trying to clear it. Of course it wasn't me. Just as it wasn't me I had encountered in my out-of-body experience. But he looked exactly like me.

Corwyn. The vampire who had given me the body I now inhabit. Corwyn stared at me while they glided down the steps. Studying me. They approached my cell.

"So," I said, wincing in pain. I probably shouldn't be talking. "What's the verdict? Is she Étienne's honeybun or not?" I coughed violently. Étienne had called for Corwyn to determine if Madeleine really was Angelique, Étienne's wife who had died centuries ago. Apparently Corwyn could tell if the little ones had merely given Madeleine the memories and personality of Angelique, or if Angelique's essence and Madeleine's essence were one and the same.

"That's not why we're down here," Étienne said.

"Please," Madeleine said. "I want him to know."

Étienne sighed and nodded his head. She walked up to the cell bars and gazed at me with icy cold eyes.

"I am Angelique," she said.

"Oh it's you," I said. "Sorry, I was talking about Kara. I just figured since Étienne asked Kara to marry him..."

Madeleine smiled. "Your lies won't work on me anymore, Shiva. They told me you'd try to do this. But you're going to have to come up with something more believable than that." Her smile grew as she turned to Étienne. "My husband, he thinks I would believe such nonsense." The expression on Étienne's face stopped her cold. Her smile quickly faded and she looked at Kara who was staring at the ground. Then back to Étienne. He seemed unable to find any words worth saying.

"He never told you," I said. "I wonder why that is."

Madeleine's face was turning red, and she fought to control herself.

Kara looked up at me. "Shiva will twist everything around to try and turn us against each other. We can't let him do it. We have to stick together."

"My apologies," I said. "It's just so difficult trying to keep track of who wants to fuck who. Madeleine trying to seduce me in the bathtub, Étienne lusting after Kara..."

Corwyn's body suddenly sparkled and shimmered and he lurched forward, melting right through the cell bars and rushing right at me. I shuddered and pulled back, rattling my chains, and causing more pain in my chest. Then he was suddenly back outside the cell, calmly standing there as if he hadn't moved.

Everyone stared at me like I was crazy.

Everyone except for Corwyn, a small smile on his lips.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Caged - 4

Time slowed down and several things all happened at once.

I activated the internal link to Kara and shouted at her in my mind. "Kara! Madeleine's trying to stake me."

Madeleine took careful aim, lining up so her throw would go through the bars and straight into my heart. She was not an expert with weapons, but her vampire strength and focus would be enough at this range. I remained motionless, my awareness glued to her movement as she drew back with the stake.

The door at the top of the stairs flew open and Kara rushed forward, leaping off the ledge.

Madeleine's arm came down fast and the stake left her fingers, just before Kara landed on her.

I used all my strength to lurch my body to the side. I had precious little room to work with, as the shackles held me tight.

Kara and Madeleine tumbled to the ground and the stake entered my chest, tearing through my flesh and ribs. I felt the wood brush against my heart on its way in, barely missing its target.

I screamed from the pain and blood gushed from my wound. Lots of blood.

Étienne and two vampires I didn't know were suddenly in the room. Étienne unlocked the door to my cell. Clifford stood at the top of the stairs, just watching.

My eyes rolled up into my head and I collapsed limp in the shackles.

"Sparky!" Kara screamed. I felt hands undoing my shackles, and several pairs of hands carefully laid my body on the floor.

My consciousness seemed to recede from my body, as if being pushed up and out the top of my head. My awareness floated high in the air, witnessing the scene with a remarkably calm, detached disposition.

Kara and Étienne frantically worked on my body. Clifford had come down the stairs and was standing behind Madeleine, holding her, both of them watching. The two other vampires stood nearby. They seemed to be there to make sure I didn't cause any trouble or try to escape.

Was I dying? I shouldn't be. The stake missed my heart. If I was really dying the little ones should have killed the goldfish, and I would be dead right now instead of hovering in the air watching all this.

I desperately wanted to be back in my body. Now was the perfect time to escape.

Kara was crying. "Sparky, please don't die on me. Hang on."

Étienne's fingers were down inside my chest, delicately working on the stake.

Madeleine also had tears running down her cheek.

This was turning into one cheesy, sappy show. Boo hoo for the little goldfish. At least if I was dying, I'd take the little bastard with me.

I sensed something directly in front of me and looked up.

It was me. I was floating in the air, staring at myself. My body was translucent, shimmering in and out of visibility. My arms reached out to myself, grabbed me, and slung my awareness down hard, down into my physical body. Suddenly the pain was intense and I opened my eyes. Étienne held me down and Kara's eyes lit up with relief and joy.

And above us, still floating in the air, was me, shimmering in the air like a ghost.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Caged - 3

I heard Kara at the top of the stairs, talking through the open door.

"Somebody else needs to watch him," she said sharply.

Other voices moved closer to Kara and the door.

"What's wrong?" Madeleine asked.

"I'll watch him," Étienne said.

"No," Kara said. "You and I are going to have a talk."

No one spoke for a moment.

"I'll watch him," Madeleine said.

"I'm coming with you," Clifford said.

"Daddy, no."

"I'm not letting you down there alone with that monster."

"Daddy, please. I'll be fine. I need to talk to him alone."

Another long pause.

"I'll be right here," Clifford said. "Be careful."

The door closed and Madeleine slowly walked down the curved stone steps. She wore a long white dress lined with lace. Her hair was braided and bounced gently against her delicate frame as she glided down the steps and walked up to the cell.

"You know they're upstairs debating on how long to wait until they kill you," she said. "You really should cooperate."

"Let me out, Madeleine."

"I can't do that."

I leaned forward in my chains and they rattled, causing Madeleine to jump. "You're not like the others," I said. "Is it tearing you up inside that you killed that boy?"

"Killing is wrong," she said.

"But you're not losing any sleep over it."

She stared at me, an emptiness in her eyes I was all too familiar with. She slowly shook her head. "No. I'm not losing any sleep over it."

"Madeleine, I won't lie to you. I'm a very practical man. I was trying to get Étienne to kill Lawrence . Lawrence has technology that can kill us all sooner or later. He has to be stopped. I can't do it myself." My voice choked. "I didn't want to do those things to you, but I thought I had to. I know now that I was wrong. I was about to hurt the only person I could eventually trust. The person who knows what it's like to kill and enjoy feeding, not only on blood, but on their life, on their fear. You can't get more intimate with someone than when you're taking their life. So much is exposed."

She held up her hand. "Stop. I'm not like that. I don't enjoy people suffering." She looked me up and down. "Yes, you were wrong in what you almost did to me. But I don't think you're sorry. I think you'd do it again in a heartbeat if it served your purpose."

I smiled. "But it doesn't serve my purpose anymore."

"You claim to be so perceptive, Shiva. But you don't see nearly as much as you think you do."

"Let me out. You and I can live the way people like you and me are supposed to live."

"You think I'm your best chance for an ally? I'm the one arguing strongest for your immediate execution, Shiva."

I froze. Could I have misjudged her?

"I like Sparky," she said. "I like him a lot. But I hate you. I want you dead so badly that I'm willing to kill Sparky to get rid of you."

I blinked and forced a smile on my lips. "You're just upset that I didn't screw you. I saw how much you wanted it when you were in the bathtub."

"No," Madeleine said. "I wanted to make love to Sparky."

She reached behind her and pulled out a wooden stake.

"You, Shiva, I want dead."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Caged - 2

Everyone left the dungeon except for Kara. She set a wooden stool a few feet from the cell bars and sat on it. She seemed to be lost in thought, her eyes staring through me to some imaginary point beyond the wall. I kept silent and gave her the same cold distant stare.

Finally, she spoke. "What do you want?"

"I want you to let me out of here."

She smiled. "You know that won't happen."

"It better happen," I said. "Or I'll kill the goldfish."

"You'll die, too."

"I die if I let you bring the goldfish back. If I die, it dies. If you don't let me out of here, it dies."

"I'm not letting you out."

"Then the goldfish dies."

Kara's gaze was steady and strong. "His name is Sparky. And I'm not letting you out. Even if that means Sparky will die."

She let her words hang in the air and I knew she absolutely meant it. "So," she said, "what do you want?"

"You need me."

Kara seemed to be growing impatient. It was subtle, but there. "Why do I need you?"

"Because I'm the only one who can stop the fugitive we came for."

"You know, Shiva, there was a time when I believed that. Now I'm not so sure. I think if Étienne can somehow combine forces with Lawrence, we can stop the fugitive together."

I started laughing, the sound echoing through the dungeon. I couldn't stop laughing. Loud, hysterical laughter, on and on.

Kara did her best to show no reaction, but I could tell my laughter unnerved her. She shifted uncomfortably on the stool. Eventually I caught my breath and looked at her.

"It's amazing to me how dense you are," I said. "You didn't know who Madeleine was, and now you don't know who Étienne is."

She shook her head. "Chat time's over," she said, and she got up to leave.

"Why did Étienne render us both unconscious when we had made it out of the tunnel? Leave us helpless for Lawrence to capture and come so close to killing us?"

She hesitated, considering my suggestion.

"And ask him how he stopped all the werewolves that were coming to Madeleine's house. No fighting, no one died. How could a vampire do that, Kara? Unless he was the one who had created them in the first place. He created the werewolves to accelerate the destruction of humankind, and when they came nearby he tamed them like only their master could."

She was shaken, and struggled to keep her composure.

"You need me," I said. "You need me or you're all dead."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Caged - 1

I opened my eyes and they all stared at me through the bars of my cell. Étienne, Madeleine, Clifford -- and Kara.

My wrists and ankles were shackled against a rock wall in what looked like a dungeon. Two torches burned from outside my cell, in a large open area with curved stone steps leading upward along the far wall. I had been sagging against the wall, held up by the chained shackles. I stood up and calmly stared right back at them, my face a blank mask.

"Remember what I told you," Kara said to the others. "Don't listen to him. He's extremely clever and will manipulate you any way he can."

Étienne walked up to the bars of my cell. I felt his power and rage burning in the air. "The only reason you're still alive is because of Kara. She insists that Sparky is still in there somewhere, and that we can get him back."

Clifford glared at me, too. He obviously shared Étienne's desire to kill me. It sure would have made things a lot simpler for them. Clifford's arm was in a cast. It would heal completely within another twenty-four hours, but in the meantime I knew it hurt.

"Cliff," I said, cracking a smile. "How's the wrist?"

His face turned red and he ran up to the bars.

"Whoa there, Cliff. It's not like I was going to do anything you haven't thought about doing yourself."

Clifford yelled and reached through the bars at me even though he knew I was too far away.

Kara stepped forward and gently put her hand on Clifford's shoulder. "Clifford, please. You can't listen to him. He will do everything he can to push our buttons and get us to slip up."

Clifford squeezed his hand into a fist and then turned away from me. "Can't we at least gag the bastard?"

Madeleine took her father's hand and led him back away from my cell.

Kara looked at me. "I know you all too well, Shiva. Soon you will be no more." She smiled, taunting me.

I smiled back. "Going to try and remove the little goldfish, are you? I really wouldn't try that if I were you."

Kara's smile faded.

"I've programmed the little ones to kill your precious Sparky the moment you try to get him out of my body. They'll kill him the second you try to remove or alter my memories."

Kara tried not to let her concern show. "We'll see about that," she said.

"Yes we will," I said. "You're stuck with me for a long time."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Reunion - 8

Images flashed through my mind of Madeleine enjoying her first kill. The look of surprise on Bobby Tate's face. Madeleine sucking his blood and feeding on his life force. I saw her back at Lawrence's facility, holding onto me so they couldn't hurt me. I remembered her soft neck as I bit into it, regaining the strength I so desperately needed. I remembered my desire for her blood long before then, from the moment I first met her. I could have turned her into an elite killer. We could have conquered this planet and this pathetic little race of humans. Together. At each other's side.

My body jolted. I was back in her room, sitting on her. Tears streamed down her face. I felt a deep emptiness. How could I hurt -- "

I smiled and started laughing. "Nice try, Sparky. Nice try."

I reached down to rip her blouse open and her body shook.

Something hard slammed into my head and I went flying through the air and smashed against the wall. Pain and darkness tugged at me, but I sent the little ones into overdrive. They flooded my brain with endorphins and I stumbled to my feet, my eyes focusing as I shook my head. A large man was facing me. He had just hit me with a baseball bat.

The man was Clifford Baker. Madeleine's father.

"Get your fucking hands off my daughter."

Rage burned in his eyes and his mouth opened, revealing fangs.

I flew at him, much faster than he could move, probably much faster than he could even see, and struck him in the chest. We both flew across to the other side of the room, and I squeezed his wrist holding the bat. I squeezed until I heard a snap. He screamed and dropped the bat as we crashed into the other wall. My hand struck his throat and squeezed. My fingers gripped his larynx, ready to rip it from his throat.

An arm slipped around my neck and knew just where to apply pressure. My strength drained away in an instant and I dropped Clifford, madly reaching for the person behind me as the darkness came rushing toward me. Whoever it was knew exactly how to restrain me and continue the pressure. I was just about to pass out and they let me go. I hit the floor hard and rolled over. The room swam around me, and I knew there was no stopping it. I was blacking out. I only had enough time to look up and see who it was.

She stared at me, her eyes colder than I had ever seen.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Reunion - 7

Madeleine spoke very softly. "Sparky?"

"My name isn't Sparky," I said, not hiding the disdain in my voice. "It's Shiva."

I secured the door to Madeleine's bedroom, and walked around the room, measuring angles from the window.

"I know you're in there Sparky," she said, her voice already shaky. "Please don't let him hurt me."

I turned to her and held my finger up to my lips. "You're wasting your breath. Cooperate and this will go much better for you."

I pulled one of her paintings out from its protective box and punched a hole through the center of it with my hand. Madeleine gasped.

"Why are you doing this?"

I set the broken painting on the floor in the place it needed to be, and then stepped over Madeleine and lowered myself until I was straddling her. I pulled out a piece of cloth and a small leather strap from my pocket.

"I need Étienne to do something for me."

"Then ask him," she said.

I smiled. So naive. "No, Étienne needs a little motivation."

She swallowed. "What kind of motivation?"

I stuffed the cloth into her mouth and secured it with the leather strap around her head.

"I like you, Madeleine. So I'll tell you why. I need Étienne to slaughter Lawrence and his group. Not just kill him, but wholesale slaughter. I need him to charge in recklessly and kill every living being at Lawrence's complex."

I slowly ran the edge of my finger along her cheek. She shivered and tried to pull away, but she had nowhere to go.

"But you and I both know Étienne wouldn't do that."

My finger continued tracing down her neck, and along her skin at the top of her blouse where the buttons opened. "Unless --"

For the first time I saw terror in Madeleine's eyes. "Unless he thought that Lawrence had come in here --"

I unbuttoned a button on her blouse.

"-- and raped his lovely wife --"

She struggled and tried to scream, but I pushed the gag further into her mouth.

"-- before beating her to death."

Her eyes glared at me in a silent scream.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Reunion - 6

Two hours later, I helped Madeleine pack her belongings. She insisted on bringing every painting she owned, and they had to be carefully packed to avoid the slightest damage. Étienne referred to them as Madeleine's treasures when he had asked me if I would be so gracious as to help her prepare them for transport. I was only too happy to agree.

We were each fitting paintings into cardboard boxes.

"You're my best friend, Sparky," Madeleine said.

I dropped the roll of tape I had just cut a strip from. It clattered to the floor. I opened my mouth to speak but only a choked gasp of air came out.

Madeleine noticed my discomfort and reached out a hand. So trusting. So soft.

I pulled away and picked up the tape, resuming the packing as if nothing had happened. I felt Madeleine's eyes on me for a moment, and then she returned to her packing without saying a word.

Why did she have to be so nice to me?

I breathed in a slow deep breath and calmed myself. It was that stupid goldfish. For some reason my restored memories and personality weren't affecting him. Probably the same reason the little ones didn't restore my memories right away after we arrived on this world. The goldfish couldn't handle it. So there it was, all innocent and idealistic. The epitome of weakness.

Madeleine and I both heard the sudden frantic footsteps throughout the house and we stopped packing and looked at each other.

Étienne stepped inside the doorway. "The beasts are coming," he said.

Madeleine's eyes widened. Her last experience with the beasts had not been pleasant.

"We will all be safe," Étienne said. "Do not worry. But I must go head them off before they get too close."

I stood, my movement conveying both a sense of urgency to battle, and a slight hesitation of wanting to remain behind and protect Madeleine in case any of the beasts got through. Étienne's sharp senses picked up on both qualities.

"Please stay," Étienne said. "I need someone I trust to stay with Madeleine." He looked at her. "My beloved, I would stay if I could. But I must be the first one the beasts encounter. Otherwise many will die tonight."

Madeleine nodded. "Go," she said. "We will be all right."

Madeleine knew I would protect her. Her best friend.

We listened to most of the house empty out as Étienne and others left. Soon it was quiet.

"We should keep packing," I said. "Keep busy."

Madeleine had no idea what we should do, but she took my word for it and looked down to the painting she was currently adjusting inside a box.

My fist struck her in the head, knocking her back, and I was on top of her before she had time to react. She was dazed, and I quickly bound her arms and legs and secured her body to the floor. I grabbed her by the throat and forced her to look at me.

"Scream and I will rip your throat out," I said.

Her eyes were wide with fear, and she was already starting to tremble.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Reunion - 5

The nurses I hadn't killed and the other family ran for the exits when the beast roared at me. I pulled out two more silver spikes and threw them at the werewolf. She grabbed them out of the air and tossed them aside as if they were harmless. So I pulled out my Uzi and cut her in half with a spray of silver bullets. A few stray bullets hit a patient who had come to their door to see what all the commotion was.

I walked into the room the beast had been guarding. The man was lying in bed, still connected to tubes and wires leading to machines. His high cheekbones hid the fear in his eyes well. The last time I had seen him was in the woods, when he killed a werewolf, saving Madeleine's life. The second werewolf tore him up pretty bad. But not bad enough to kill him. Only bad enough to infect him. He was one of them now, and at the next full moon in about a week, he would change into one of the beasts he had been hunting. They knew it and had come to protect him. To be there for him when he first changed. Until then he was merely human. Weak and injured.

I leaned over so that I was right in his face. He didn't flinch.

"Your kind is so weak," I said. "We have taken over the girl's house you tried to save. We have turned her into one of us. And there's nothing any of you can do about it."

I smiled, letting my fangs come into view. "Except die," I said.

He could now hear the footsteps running down the hall. I looked to the door, then back at him, then to the door again. I ran out of his room and flew into the air vent just as several security guards burst into the nursing station.

I made it out of the hospital before any police had arrived, and flew over the trees back to Madeleine's house. Étienne's sentries were once again easy to avoid. I had expected better from him, but I guess they weren't guarding against flying vampires. I slipped into the house and walked down the upstairs hallway to Madeleine's room. Her door was closed, but I could hear her and Étienne inside.

"I want you to meet your children," he said.

"My children?" I could hear the tremble in her voice.

"They miss you," he said.

"Étienne, I understand that I may have been your wife. The images that flash in my mind certainly point to that. But I'm me. I'm Madeleine. I never stopped being me."

He laughed softly. "You haven't changed at all, mon aimé."

I couldn't help but smile in the hallway. Things couldn't be going any better.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Reunion - 4

I flew through the night air just above the trees. The sun had just set, and I avoided being seen by Étienne's sentries guarding the house. Étienne had said that Corwyn, apparently the man who gave me one of his bodies, could verify whether or not Madeleine was really Angelique, somehow reincarnated or her soul preserved. Presumably Corwyn was now on his way, and that presented a problem. If Corwyn claimed that Madeleine was not Angelique, my plan would fail. I couldn't allow that to happen. So I had to sneak out of the house and accelerate the time table. Things could be worse. At least Kara was soon to be dead if not already. She would have been the greatest risk. No one knows me better than her. And now she's out of the way.

I descended to the roof of the hospital and entered through a maintenance door. I wondered how Corwyn would be able to verify Madeleine's status. And how can he have more than one body? I remembered the night he had drawn the life-force out of the body I now inhabit and added it to his own. Had he really been in both bodies? I didn't like not understanding something.

I peeked through the air vent into the hospital nursing station. Three female and two male nurses were on duty. The patient rooms formed a large circle around the nursing station, and several families were visiting their loved ones. One of the families caught my eye. They looked normal enough, but I could feel power lurking just beneath their calm exteriors. An older woman in her late sixties, and a younger man and woman in their early twenties. Clever. I'm sure they blended in quite well.

This was it. No time to be subtle now. Time to burn some bridges.

I kicked the grille out and slid through the opening onto the hospital floor. The nurses were momentarily shocked by my sudden appearance, but the family immediately moved into action. The young man and woman came toward me at a blinding speed while the older woman stepped back to guard the door to a patient's room. I could see the young man and woman's faces changing as they moved, eyes turning yellow, large upper and lower fangs emerging, hands turning into deadly claws.

My hands swept upward and out to them, releasing two silver spikes aimed at their hearts. They shrieked as the spikes pierced their hearts, knocking them back to the ground. A nurse screamed and another one frantically reached for a phone. The young man and woman twitched on the floor, their bodies half-transformed, patches of fur on their skin, their noses caught between human and wolf. My left hand reached inside my cloak and found a thin silver spike. Without looking I threw it at the nurse fumbling with the phone and caught him right between the eyes.

The older woman transformed into a large beast right before my eyes and roared at me, crouching low, bearing her large fangs at me.

Ready to fight to the death.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Reunion - 3

I stared at my reflection in the full-length mirror. Yes, vampires have reflections. Maybe the little ones weren't up to trying to hide them. My eyes seemed alien to me. Someone was in there but it wasn't me. I wondered how I could have ever turned out to be so evil. After all, Shiva was me in the future, wasn't he? Am I anything but Shiva stripped of a lifetime of memories and experiences?

I felt Kara's hands on my shoulders and I smiled. "I missed you," I said. Her reflection wasn't in the mirror. I quickly turned around and she was standing right there. I let out a small laugh.

"I know," I said. "I'm dreaming again."

Kara's lips started to turn down, and then she managed a bittersweet smile. "Are you still at Madeleine's house?"

I nodded. "You must send someone to stop Shiva. I don't know how long we'll be here."

"I can't."

I suddenly noticed how tired she looked. Weak and tired. "Kara, what's wrong?"

She swallowed and had trouble looking me in the eye. "Sparky, this may be the last time I see you. Lawrence – he hasn't allowed me to feed since you left. I'm almost dead."

I grabbed her arms. "No! This can't be happening. Kara, you have to fight. You have to find a way to free yourself."

She shook her head. "I can't, Sparky. I have no more strength left. I can't even talk when I'm awake. I'm so sorry."

I held her tight, my body trembling.

"Just hold me," she said as she gently stroked my back. "At least I got to see you one last time."

We slowly turned in a small circle while I held her. My mind was at a loss of what to do. Awake, I was helpless, completely at the mercy of Shiva. I looked into the mirror to see what we looked like together. I wanted to lock that memory and hold onto it forever. Her body seemed so fragile. But she was my Goddess, and would always be. And then I noticed my face.

I was snickering, my eyes filled with malice.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Reunion - 2

An hour later, I was admiring the damage in the basement from our encounter with the werewolves, when I overheard Étienne and his son, Phillip, talking upstairs in the kitchen.

"Papa, she isn't Angelique," Phillip said. "Can't you see? The little ones have programmed her to believe she is, and have altered her DNA so she looks like Angelique, but that's it."

"My son," Étienne said. "Your mother and I had a bond, a link that you could not understand."

"Could not understand?" Phillip said, his high-pitched voice getting louder. "Because I am trapped in this little boy's body and don't know the ways of love between a man and woman? Is that what you mean, Papa? Well, is it?"

"Oh, Phillip, I'm..."

I called out to them up the stairs. "Phillip, you're wrong."

The house was suddenly eerily quiet as I walked up the steps to the kitchen. Étienne and Phillip were staring at me as if I shouldn't be there. "Étienne is right," I said. "Madeleine is his wife. And she is your mother."

I paused to let my words sink in. Étienne wanted me to be right. Phillip looked like he wanted to crack my head open and scoop out my brains again.

"Please allow me to explain," I said. "Angelique was attacked by vampires, just like the rest of your family. Only when you found them and tried to save them all, she was beyond saving. Your two children, you managed to feed them your own blood."

Étienne's eyes seemed very weary and tired. "She insisted I save the children first," he said. "I tried to save her, but she was too far gone."

"And who else was there when she died?"

Étienne studied me curiously. "She died in my arms," he said. "Just the two of us. The children were unconscious."

"There had to be someone else," I said.

Phillip let out a forceful breath of air in disgust. "This is a huge waste of time. I've heard this story a thousand times. It was only us." He turned and started walking away.

"Her sister was there," Étienne said quietly.

Phillip stopped and turned sharply back to his father.

"Her sister had been in the other room, afraid to see any of them. Afraid she'd be cursed if she got too close. But shortly before Angelique died, she came in and took one look at her and broke down crying."

"Did they touch?" I asked.

Étienne closed his eyes, reliving the terrible night in his mind. "They kissed."

"And that's how the little ones were transferred to Angelique's sister," I said. "And passed down from generation to generation, until finally they were given to Madeleine."

"This changes nothing," Phillip said. "She's still not Angelique."

"Why do you think Madeleine wanted to be a vampire so badly?"

Phillip smirked. "Because she's crazy?"

Étienne shot him a look. Phillip is over two hundred years old and still they play this father and son game.

"Because," I said. "The little ones recognized that her soul and Angelique's soul are the same soul."

A glow of understanding filled Étienne's face.

Phillip frowned. "My mistake, Sparky. You're the one who's crazy."

"There is someone who can verify this," Étienne said.

Now this surprised me.

"His name is Corwyn," Étienne said.

"He's the one who gave you one of his bodies."

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Reunion - 1

Madeleine immediately covered herself with the towel and staggered back. Étienne moved in a blinding flash and I got out of his way. He caught Madeleine as she started to fall.

"Angelique?" he said. "Is this really you? My beloved, is this really you?"

Madeleine's eyes fluttered and she tried to focus on Étienne's face but was having difficulty.

"I know you," she said.

"Mon aimé," he said, his voice choking with emotion.

She passed out and he carried Madeleine into her bedroom and tucked her under the covers. I watched patiently as he sat next to her on the bed, gazing at her while she slept. He eventually turned to me.

"You brought her to me," he said.

I nodded. "Yes."

"How did you know?"

"She had the little ones inside her," I said. "Yet she was not a vampire. And she called me here using them. I'm not sure why she could sing to me in my head like she could. When I got here, I noticed the paintings on her wall were all by eighteenth century French painters."

Étienne glanced around the walls of her bedroom. "These were her favorite contemporary works of art before she died."

I continued. "But it wasn't until you told me about your wife from back then, Angelique, that I understood who Madeleine really was."

"How is this possible?" he said. "I watched Angelique die in my arms. I buried her."

"I don't know, Étienne. I'll leave that up for your son to figure out."

"Do you understand what this means, my dear friend?"

I smiled and shook my head innocently.

"It means, my dear friend Sparky, that I now owe you everything."

I did my best to maintain a giving, selfless expression. Yes, I thought. Now you do owe me, don't you? And after I extract my payment, I wonder if you'll wish you'd never seen you dear wife, Angelique, again.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Destroyer - 7

I was looking at the paintings on her bedroom wall when Madeleine called me.

"Sparky, can you please bring me a towel?"

I walked out to the hallway and found a small linen closet. I grabbed a towel and went to the bathroom door. My hand rested on the doorknob and I took a slow deep breath. Self-control.

I opened the door and saw Madeleine lying in the bathtub. Soap bubbles covered her in the water. She was taking a bubble bath. I met her gaze. Her eyes had a sultry look and I blinked.

"I'll set it on the counter," I said.

She rose out of the water in a single graceful motion, the water and soap bubbles gliding down her skin. I knew I should look away, but I couldn't. I didn't want to.

She was thin, but she still had all the curves in the right places. My self-control was fading fast.

"A natural blonde," I said, grinning.

She reached out her hand to me and spoke with that familiar melody.

Come, my lover My heart is torn Fill my longing To taste the thorn

I walked up to her and handed her the towel. She gave me a puzzled look. As much as I wanted to take her right there and then, I wanted something else more.

"I'm sorry," she said. "It's Kara, isn't it?"

I laughed, not the reaction Madeleine expected. Of course not. Kara tried to destroy me. She was already dead. She just didn't know it yet. "Yes," I said. "Kara is the only one for me." I didn't break up laughing. Self-control at its best.

Madeleine held the towel but made no effort to cover herself. Which was fine by me. I was enjoying the show.

"And besides," I said. "You are meant for someone else."

Her eyes widened with curiosity. "Do you really think so, Sparky?"

I nodded as she began drying off.

"I wonder who it could be," she said.

"That would be me," a voice from behind me said.

I turned around.

Étienne stood in the doorway, his eyes intense and powerful.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Destroyer - 6

I began shoveling dirt into the grave of Bobby Tate, the sixteen-year-old boy we had just killed. We had found a secluded spot in the woods near the cornfield, and borrowed a shovel from a tool shed nearby.

Madeleine sat on the ground and watched. "I never really liked Bobby Tate," she said. "He used to pour salt on slugs all the time and watch them melt into a puddle of liquid." She brushed her fingers along the bloody fabric of her dress. "I really need to change clothes. Can we go back to my house and get some more clothes?"

Ah yes, the practicalities of killing. I knew them well. Dispose of your victim's body. And if you're planning on staying in town for awhile, don't pick victims that will be missed. Bobby Tate would be missed. But I allowed us one exception for Madeleine's first kill. From now on we would have to be more selective. We wouldn't be here that long, but we might need to hide out if things didn't go right. Better not to burn our bridges early on.

"Sparky, shouldn't we go back and get my Dad and Kara?"

"Madeleine, it's too dangerous back there. We'll rescue them when we're ready."

"You know, I was really scared when you first bit me. I thought you were going to kill me. But you knew what I really wanted. You knew I had wanted the immortal kiss all my life. Thank you for everything, Sparky."

I nodded and continued filling the hole with dirt.

"Bobby Tate once asked me out, you know. I said no, of course. Just three weeks ago. I think he was finally starting to grow up."

"Well, he won't be doing any more of that now." I smiled as I said it and looked over to Madeleine. She frowned.

"No," she said somberly. "He won't be doing any more of that."

I set the shovel in the dirt and walked over to Madeleine, kneeling down beside her. I brushed my finger along the side of her face and tilted her chin up so she could see me. "They're just food," I said. "I know it's not easy, but it will get easier."

She gave me a half-hearted reluctant smile. "I know. I've been thinking about what it would be like for years. I knew what I was getting into."

I smiled and kissed her on the forehead.

I scooped the last bits of dirt onto the grave and patted it down, sweeping some brush over the dirt.

Madeleine stood and stared at the grave.

"Goodbye, Bobby Tate," she said.

And then she blew him a kiss.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Destroyer - 5

I woke up in the attic of Madeleine's empty house. The sun had just set and I felt the darkness outside embracing the land like an old friend. I buried the memory of my dream deep into my subconscious where it wouldn't interfere with my waking life. I'd kill the little gold bastard if I could. Only one problem. I'd be killing myself.

My wrist was tied to a small piece of rope fastened to a burlap sack. The sack was still closed. I opened it and pulled it down, exposing Madeleine's body. I shook her.

Her eyes fluttered open.

"Come," I said. "It is time."

We flew through the night sky, my cloak flapping in the wind. Madeleine held onto me tight. She hadn't spoken yet. I saw no reason to ruin the silent mood.

I saw him walking alone through a cornstalk field. He appeared to be young, in his mid-teens I guessed. We circled in a wide arc and then gracefully descended to a spot about twenty yards in front of him. I stepped back into the cornstalks, pulling Madeleine with me. The boy didn't notice us. He kept walking.

I gently pushed Madeleine toward him and he jumped back. "Whoa," he said. Then he took a closer look at her. "Madeleine? Is that you?"

Madeleine said nothing. I could feel the desperate hunger in her. But she hesitated. Given time, I could cure her of that.

"Madeleine, everyone's been looking for you and your father. The police have been questioning everybody. Where have you been? Are you all right?"

"I can't," she said. "I can't."

I stepped out into view and the boy jumped again. The first signs of real fear entered his eyes. He turned to run.

I was on him as he completed his turn, my fangs sinking deep into his neck, my hand covering his mouth as he tried to scream. His arms flailed about helplessly as I drank his blood. I turned back to Madeleine. She wore a mixture of emotions. Fear, revulsion, guilt, but most of all hunger. I reached out my hand and she took it, only slightly trembling. I pulled her to the boy and bent his head to expose his neck. She hesitated, then saw the blood dripping down my chin. Her tongue slowly ran across her lips. She bit into his neck and sucked.

The feeding took her over, and she drank with a passion. She held onto him as he grew weaker. I could see her strength returning. Her eyes glazed over with intoxication as his life force flowed into her.

I felt his heartbeat on the edge of stopping and forcefully pulled her away from him. He collapsed onto the ground and I felt his heart stop.

Madeleine stared at me, blood all over her mouth and chin, blood staining the top of her dress. I smiled.

She smiled back.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Destroyer - 4

I wandered around the dark musty attic, looking for something I'd lost. Cobwebs brushed against my face and I had to keep picking them off. The boards creaked with each step. A burlap sack sat in the corner. I cautiously walked up to it. Large lumps protruded from the bag and I didn't want to look inside, but I had to. I reached down and opened it.

Madeleine's body was inside. It had already started decaying. My throat tightened.

"I'm so sorry," I said. "I am so sorry."

Her eyes flashed open and glared at me. "Why did you kill me, Sparky? I trusted you."

Laughter boomed behind me and I whirled around. A clown smiled at me. I was beginning to hate clowns.


That sounded like Kara! I looked around the attic. "Kara? Is that you? Where are you?"

I heard the burlap sack rustle behind me and turned. Kara was getting out of it. She stood and walked up to me. I cringed and stepped back. Her flesh was hanging loosely on her bones.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

My voice shook. "Did I kill you, too?"

"Get a hold of yourself, Sparky. You're dreaming. Make yourself see me as I really am."

I focused my attention and Kara's face shifted back into the healthy beautiful face I knew. I shook my head.

"Listen to me," she said. "Are you aware of everything Shiva is doing when you're awake?"

I nodded. "I'm so sorry. I couldn't stop him."

Kara put her hand on my shoulder. "I know," she said. "Don't worry. There's nothing you could have done. I came here to tell you I love you. When I doubted that we could survive the mission, you told me that you'd find a way. Well I'm telling you right now that I'll find a way to get you back. I promise."

I held her hand and stared into her eyes. "It's more important that you stop him," I said.

"I can do both," she said.

"No. Kara, please. You have to promise me that stopping Shiva is your first priority. If you can save me at the same time, that would be wonderful. But you can't delay killing him for one second because of me. If one life is lost because you waited to kill him trying to save me..." I pulled her close and wrapped my arms around her. "Kara, I can't stand it. Watching him kill so easily with no regret."

I closed my eyes and felt her arms around me. I felt her hands reach up to my face. I felt her fingers cut into my flesh. I tried to scream and opened my eyes, pulling back. Shiva had my face in his hands and was tearing me apart.

"Why won't you die!" he yelled.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Destroyer - 3

I looked through the glass at Kara's horrified face and pointed my finger at her. Blood was everywhere, coating my hand, streaming down my chin and neck.

"I should kill you for what you tried to do to me," I said. "But I'm running a little short of time just now."

She started to say something, but I moved in a flash through the door to my cell, carrying Madeleine's limp body like a prized trophy. Loud sirens blared. Two guards blocked a door at the far end of a long corridor. They saw me and started drawing their guns. By now I had a direct link of control with the little ones inside my body. I didn't even have to think. My intention directed them to modify my physiology, my chemistry on subtle levels that made all the difference. I could tell that from each guard's point of view, my form blurred in a streak of light as I ran toward them, seeming to dart up the walls, always changing directions, giving them nothing to aim at, much less shoot. From my point of view they were moving in slow motion. I could see every detail of their movement. I knew when their fingers would pull the trigger, and I'd have plenty of time to avoid their fire.

They never pulled their triggers. I was on them, grabbing both their necks and snapping them. My leg had come up to balance Madeleine's body. As their bodies fell, I took Madeleine back under one arm and examined the door.

It was locked and made of heavy reinforced steel. I pressed a finger to the security pad on the wall and instructed the little ones to open the door. A loud click echoed in the corridor and the door opened. During the time it took to unlock the door, I also obtained a floor plan of the building. I ran through the halls, heading for the exit. I was moving so fast that I managed to avoid most of the guards on the way. Only three people blocked my path and I killed them instantly. I know at least one of them was a guard. Not sure about the other two.

I approached the final door leading outside, and a middle-aged woman was huddled against the wall near the door. The same woman who had injected me with my memories. I moved right up to her face and she screamed, shaking uncontrollably.

"Don't kill me," she begged, loud wails coming from her as she tried to breathe.

My face was still covered in blood as I smiled, and then ran my tongue along the side of her face. She cringed and shook, making an odd crying sound.

"You're the only one who did something good for me," I said. "So I'll wait until I come back and kill you last."

I went out the door and there was the Lamborghini, all nice and shiny, coursing with the little ones, waiting for me. I tossed Madeleine's body into the passenger seat and started the car. It purred with power. This car was made for me. Those fools didn't deserve it.

I floored the accelerator and headed out into the night.

The mission was a good mission. Kill all the vampires and werewolves.

Except me of course.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Destroyer - 2

I looked around. The woman with the empty syringe stepped back, her hands still trembling. Kara's eyes were wide and I could feel her dread. Lawrence stared at me through the glass divider.

"Shiva," he said. "Are you with us?"

I recognized the name Shiva from Hindu mythology. Shiva was The Destroyer.

"How long does this take to work?" I asked.

Lawrence tensed, then looked at the woman. She nervously began talking. "Everything checked out. The memories were active and should be restored now."

I let out a deep sigh of relief and looked at Kara. "It's still me. It didn't work."

Kara seemed to also relax, but I could tell she was still very weak and exhausted.

"Lawrence," I said. "Please let us feed. We can work something out."

Lawrence's face tightened with rage and he took it out on the woman. "Get out! I'll deal with you later." The woman left in a hurry. Lawrence forced himself to calm down, then spoke into the air once again. "Bring them in, one at a time in each cell." He glared at me. "If you don't care about yourself or Kara, maybe there are others who can convince you."

"What are you talking about?" I said. "Why do you say I don't care about Kara?"

Officer Stokes walked through the side door into my cell, while Lawrence disappeared through the door in the observation room. I could make out two large men outside the door of my cell. Stokes looked around cautiously. Clifford was let into Kara's cell.

"You look awful," Stokes said.

I managed a smile. "They won't let us feed."

Stokes looked around me to Kara and then back to me. "They said we'll all die if you don't take out this Étienne guy."

"I'm sorry," I said.

Stokes held up his hand. "Don't be. You do whatever's right."

I nodded. "I'll do what I can." Kara and Clifford were talking in hushed whispers, but I couldn't make out what they were saying.

The door opened and the large men pulled Stokes out and pushed Madeleine in. She ran up to me, obviously afraid of them. "Sparky," she said. "Thank God you're all right." She put her hand up to my face. "What have they done to you?"

Clifford had stopped talking to Kara and was watching us now.

"Please," Clifford said. "Don't let them hurt my daughter. Do what they want."

Madeleine put on the bravest face I had seen from her. "Don't worry about me, Sparky. I want you to know something. I've thought long and hard about what you've been telling me. And you're right. I don't want to be a vampire anymore. I've realized how precious life is. And I have you and Kara to thank for this. So it's important that you do what is right. If I die, it's okay. The important thing is to do what's right."

The door to my cell opened and the two large men entered. I heard Lawrence 's voice behind them. "Get them out. This is just making things worse. Let the vampires starve to death."

Madeleine held onto me. "No, leave them alone!"

The two men approached us.

"Goodbye, Madeleine," I said with an air of finality in my voice.

Madeleine threw her arms around me and pressed herself close to me as the two men flanked her and reached out to grab her.

I sank my fangs into her neck. She screamed and I held on, sucking her sweet blood into my body. The two men were startled, and I heard Kara and Clifford yelling as my strength returned rapidly.

"Sparky, what are you doing?"

"Let her go!"

The two men grabbed Madeleine and I thrust my arms at their chests, breaking free of the straps. My hands entered their chests and broke through their ribs. Blood splattered everywhere, staining the white room and the glass walls. I found their hearts and squeezed, pulling them out as their bodies collapsed onto the floor.

I dropped the hearts and cradled Madeleine in my arms, continuing to drink her blood. Oh, the ecstasy, the power filling my body. My eyes turned up to watch Kara and Clifford screaming at me as I drank and drank, feeling Madeleine's life slipping away.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Destroyer - 1

I opened my eyes and was dizzy with weakness. Everything was so bright, and I had to blink my eyes several times before I could make anything out. I was strapped in an upright position to a board, my arms outstretched. The walls and ceiling and floor were all white. I had to be back at Lawrence 's facility. Why was I bound like this?

I heard a loud click and the wall in front of me began slowly lowering into the ground. In its place was a glass wall, and on the other side a small empty room with a door.

Another loud click and the wall to my left lowered, revealing another window into a room just like mine. Kara was strapped to a similar upright board in that room. We looked to each other, and I felt a shared dread between us. She looked weak, too, and I realized it must have been a long time since we've fed. When a vampire has gone long enough without feeding, strength drains rapidly. I maybe had the strength of a human invalid right now. Not good. If this was Lawrence 's facility, why was he starving us?

The door of the room I was facing opened and Lawrence entered. His expression was grave, his eyes cold. He walked up to Kara's window. "Why did you warn him?" he asked. "We almost had him. After all these years. Now he'll be hiding so deep we'll never find him again."

Kara had trouble speaking. I could tell it was a huge effort to make her mouth move. I struggled against my straps but it was hopeless. "He's not the one we're looking for," she said.

"Because he told you he wasn't?" Lawrence 's voice gradually got angrier and louder. "Don't you think he'd say anything to save himself?"

"We saw the children," I said. "He wasn't killing them. He was saving them."

Lawrence walked over to my window and glared at me. "You're so naïve," he said. "You're supposed to be this legendary assassin, The Destroyer. And look at you. A pathetic little goldfish full of idealism and empathy for your victims."

The Destroyer. An eerie chill ran through my body. Something inside told me that was the closest translation to who I was before my memories had been removed for our interstellar journey. An assassin so ruthless that it was hard to tell which side was good and which was evil. An assassin who got the job done. Whatever the cost. But that wasn't me now. Whoever that monster was, he had been given a second chance. Underneath all the horror of what he had become was a soul who cared about people, and could love. And that soul was me.

Kara spoke, her voice dry and hoarse. "How do you know about The Destroyer?"

Lawrence turned back to her. "You've both been out for over a week. During that time I've been scanning your brains and stimulating parts of it. I was trying to learn why you failed on your mission. But I ended up learning a whole lot more.

"We need blood," I said. "Please."

"You're of no use to me if you won't complete the mission."

"We will," I said. "But Étienne isn't the one."

"Étienne is the one! And your mission is to kill him."

"All right, I'll do it," I said. "Just feed us."

Lawrence studied me carefully. "Now why don't I believe you." He stepped back and talked into the air. "Bring it in."

A middle-aged woman wearing surgical scrubs walked in. I could tell by her eyes she didn't want to be here. She was afraid. She held up a large syringe.

Lawrence 's voice was cold and distant. "You're incapable of finishing the mission," he said to me. "But I know of someone else I can count on."

"What are you doing?" I knew the answer, but I thought asking the question might somehow delay the inevitable.

The woman approached me cautiously, holding the syringe up in front of her.

"I'm giving you back your memories, Sparky," Lawrence said. "It's time to bring The Destroyer back."

"No!" Kara screamed. She jerked her body against the straps and quickly wore herself out.

"Please," I said. "I like who I am now. I can still complete the mission. Please don't do this."

"You're safe," Lawrence told the woman. "They are far too weak to hurt anybody."

She reached up to apply pressure to my neck and find an artery. Her hands were shaking.

"You don't have to do this," I said. Kara was screaming now, making feeble attempts to free herself.

"You're just proving my point," Lawrence said. "The Destroyer would never beg like a coward."

The needle jabbed deep into my neck.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Infiltration - 8

"Is everybody all right?" I asked. It was pitch black and I couldn't see anything, even with my superior vampire senses.

"I'm okay," Kara said after coughing.

An eerie dim green light flashed on. Étienne held a small glowing stick in his hand. "We'll have to dig our way out of here," he said.

"I'm surprised they haven't zapped us yet," I said.

Étienne looked at me. "Are you referring to the pulse weapon?"

"Yes. How did you know about it?"

"Phillip devised an effective magnetic shield against it. We'd all be dead right now if he hadn't."

Kara brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. "You knew they were coming," she said.

Étienne nodded. "Yes."

"Then why did you stay so long?" she asked. "Why did you act like nothing was wrong while we talked?"

Étienne shrugged. "I wanted to know if you two would betray me or not."

"We did betray you," I said.

He grinned. "But you warned me once you knew the truth."

"You could have been killed," I said. "And your children."

"Yes," he said. "But we are all well. The passageway the children took has not been damaged. They are already safely out of danger." He moved over to the debris, examining it. "This will be difficult to remove without causing a cave-in."

"I have an idea," I said. I took off my cloak and spent a few minutes removing all the myriad of guns and knives and stakes hidden in its folds. Étienne watched me, fascinated. I handed the cloak to Kara, and she nodded, and then put the edge of the cloak into her mouth. After a minute, she pressed the cloak onto the debris and stepped back.

The cloak molded itself to the debris and slowly began shifting, its folds gradually penetrating the debris, slowly moving it. Eventually a small hole appeared. The cloak packed the debris outward, creating a small tunnel, barely large enough for one of us to fit through. The cloak moved deeper into the debris.

Étienne entered first, followed by Kara and then me. We followed the cloak as it carved its way through the debris. Eventually we emerged farther down the corridor. I grabbed my cloak and put it back on. "My weapons," I said.

Étienne put his hand on my shoulder. "You won't need them." He smiled at us. "Thank you for warning me. You are safe now. When you wake up, just follow the corridor until it ends."

My eyes widened. "When we wake up?"

Étienne's hands lashed out at us with blinding speed. I almost didn't see any movement. It was as if his hands were suddenly upon us, holding Kara and me by our throats. I reached up to grab his arm, but my strength evaporated quickly. The narrow corridor started spinning and I desperately tried to move, but standing up was becoming my main problem right now. The ground rushed up to meet my face.

And then I passed out.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Infiltration - 7

Phillip didn't seem happy. He stood impatiently next to the children. "Papa?"

Étienne raised his hand to silence him. He turned to Kara and me. "Are these the children you say I've murdered? Children who were all in the terminal phases of an incurable disease? Children who would have died had I not brought them here to give them life? Are these the children you want to condemn me for?"

My mouth hung open and my head was spinning with a barrage of thoughts and emotions. "But, you came to this planet," I said, "to turn everyone into monsters." My statement sounded more like a question.

Phillip's eyes were darting rapidly back and forth. "Papa!"

"No!" Étienne yelled. "Wait!"

"You're destroying the human race," I said. So much for keeping secrets now.

"The one who made me," Étienne said very slowly, making sure I heard him clearly. "That one is not from this world. But I am not him. I am his sworn enemy."

"Sparky..." Kara said, a sense or urgency in her voice.

" Étienne," I said quickly. "Men are going to be here any second to kill all of you. You must get everyone out. Now."

Étienne turned to Phillip. "Now, Phillip."

Phillip tilted his head back and his eyes rolled up into his head, their movement frantic as they twitched back and forth. I heard movement all around us, throughout the house and outside.

A bookshelf slid open, revealing a narrow corridor. Étienne gestured toward the opening. "This way," he said. "Hurry, they're almost here."

Kara and I ran along with Étienne down the corridor. Phillip, Jacqueline, and the other children had gone through a different door. The corridor was narrow but we moved fast through it, winding down under the ground.

Explosions from above shook the earth and knocked us against the corridor walls. We kept moving, running full out. More explosions from above. Then gunfire. Endless gunfire.

We entered a long stretch of corridor and it was hard to see where it ended. Some of the lights had gone out, other lights flickered, creating a strobe-effect that made us seem to be moving slower than we actually were. We sprinted down the long stretch.

Suddenly the earth shook and I was thrown hard to the wall. Plaster and bricks flew around us, some hitting us. The remaining lights went out except for one light at the far end of the corridor. Bricks and earth crumbled down between us and the light, filling the corridor.

We were trapped. Trapped in the dark with gunfire and explosions all around us.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Infiltration - 6

"I must apologize to you both," Étienne said. We were sitting outside in the outdoor gazebo, the place where Étienne had proposed to Kara. I began to feel a little uncomfortable. Everything was too easy. Étienne welcomes us to his home and wants to sit and talk. I was able to activate the homing signal very soon after we arrived. Too easy.

Étienne crossed his legs and relaxed back in his chair. Every movement was refined and elegant. Centuries of practice will do that. "I know I came on too strong before."

He was looking at Kara now. Something in his voice sounded so sincere. He was good. Being with him made me want to be his friend. I had to remind myself what a monster he really was.

"It's just that you reminded me of someone from long ago. Not really in appearance, but the strength of your spirit."

I felt something from Étienne I had never felt before. Deep sorrow. And profound loneliness.

Kara felt it also. She reached out and gently touched his hand. "Tell me about her, m'Lord."

"Her name was Angelique. She was my wife. We met in Marseille, in the mid-seventeen hundreds. The first time I saw her was at a music recital in the city. She loved music."

This was getting too surreal. Any minute now, armed government agents would be storming the Chateaux, destroying all the vampires on sight. And here we were listening to the original evil vampire go on about his wife from centuries ago. I had figured we'd be fighting for our lives by now.

"I thought I could live a normal life. My children accepted her as their mother. She knew what I was, and completely accepted me. She eagerly wanted to be made into a vampire, but I refused. How could I inflict this curse on one so lovely? The one who made me gave me no choice. And still, even though she wanted it, I couldn't bring myself to make her into one of us."

"The one who made you?" I said. "I thought you were the first."

The moment I said it, I regretted it.

Étienne turned to me, his eyes very serious. "And why would you think that?"

I hesitated, and searched for something to say. Anything to try and change the subject. "I can tell you are extremely old," I said. "And the way you feed innocent children to Phillip and Jacqueline. That strikes me as something the original vampire would do."

Étienne stood in a blinding flash, his eyes filled with anger. I shifted back in my chair, my hand ready on the Uzi hidden in my cloak.

"How dare you judge me!" The power in his voice made me cringe. It felt like he might be able to suffocate me with his voice alone. Kara looked at me like I was crazy, silently asking, "What are you doing?"

"I'm stating a simple fact," I said. My plan was working. I had distracted him from my knowledge that he was the first vampire. The distraction might get me killed, but first things first. "We've seen you deliver children for your own children to murder."

"You've seen what you want to see," he said, his voice practically hissing at me. He struggled to collect himself. Then he called out. "Phillip? Jacqueline? Please come down here and bring your friends with you."

Phillip's tiny voice sounded from upstairs. "Which ones?"

Étienne stared at me and made my blood chill. "All of them," he said.

Phillip and Jacqueline came down the stairs, followed by a stream of children. I couldn't come close to counting how many there were. They all looked quite healthy. Happy and healthy. And all of them were vampires.

Two young teenage boys stood in front. Something about them was familiar. They were the two boys I had seen being delivered that night. The same two boys Jacqueline had led upstairs to Phillip.

They smiled at us, not a care in the world.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Infiltration - 5

Étienne appeared in the doorway and was noticeably reserved, his face a hidden mask revealing no emotion.

Kara and I stood to greet him.

He barely nodded his head to acknowledge our presence and slowly stepped into the room. My left hand casually touched the edge of a wooden stake hidden in my sleeve. My right hand rested on the top of the Uzi secured inside the folds of my cloak.

Étienne opened his arms in a half-hearted gesture of peace. "Monsieur Sparky, would you really attack me in my own home after I invited you here?"

I shifted uncomfortably. "Last time I was here," I said, "your son opened up my skull and removed my brains."

Étienne shrugged. "Phillip can be impetuous at times. But he didn't hurt you, now did he?"

This pretty much answered one of my questions. Étienne and his family knew I was a goldfish. "Well, no, he didn't..."

Étienne stopped near Kara and gazed dispassionately into her eyes. "I suppose it would be too much to ask if you came back to be with me?"

Kara shook her head. "That's not why we're here," she said.

My curiosity was getting the better of me. "Did Phillip scan us when we came in? Is that how you knew it was me?"

Étienne laughed. "You and Kara left out of anger. Out there on your own, alone, with you being so helpless..." He stared straight at me. "You would have gotten her killed. You needed a new body, and a way to get one without knowing who was offering you the gift."

"What?" I said.

Étienne looked at Kara. "Would you have accepted a new body for him if you knew it was a gift from me?"

"Probably not," Kara said.

"I have a very old friend," Étienne continued. "He owed me a favor."

"You rigged the car," I said. "And arranged for the police to chase us near the canyon."

Étienne smiled. "Actually that was all Phillip's idea. He's rather a resourceful young boy." His face beamed with pride.

"I have a few matters to attend to," Étienne said. "I will return soon and you can tell me why you're here and what I can do for you this time."

He turned and left.

Kara and I looked at each other. We were with Étienne. He would be here with us for awhile longer. Kara nodded. I could see she was torn.

I wasn't. I bit down on the thin invisible shell that covered my back tooth. I nodded back to Kara. There. It was done. The homing signal was activated.

Soon this would all be over.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Infiltration - 4

The four vampires in the elevator glared at Kara who stood closer to them, and then they looked up at me. Their anger immediately turned to surprise -- and something else. Fear maybe? I couldn't tell because their faces quickly shifted to blank masks. A trick many vampires have learned through the centuries.

"What is your business here?" one of them asked.

"We've come to see Étienne," Kara said.

The vampires ignored her and stared at me.

"We've come to see Étienne," I said.

They stepped back and allowed us to enter the elevator. We rode down in silence. Kara and I looked at each other. She seemed just as puzzled as I was. They obviously knew me. Or rather they knew the body I was in. Or maybe it was my twin who had delivered this body to me. Was I friend or foe to Étienne and his crew?

The elevator car stopped descending and began moving sideways along a system of tracks. This was new. It was impossible to measure the speed or direction we were traveling. No wonder Lawrence had never been able to find Étienne.

Eventually the car stopped and the vampires led us to Étienne's Chateaux. We waited in a parlor just inside the main entrance. Kara and I exchanged nervous glances.

Little Jacqueline appeared between the open doors. Her appearance was startling. Suddenly she was there. She smiled and giggled and skipped toward us. She stopped and shyly looked at us. "I didn't know if I'd see you ever again," she said.

Kara smiled. I couldn't help but smile, too. Jacqueline brought a whole new meaning to the idea of cute adorable vampires.

"How have you been?" Kara asked.

Jacqueline blushed. "I've been good. Have you come for Papa?"

Had we come for Papa? If only she knew.

"Yes," Kara said. "We've come to see your Papa."

Phillip's voice sounded from the bottom of the stairs. "Jacqueline? The new children are here. Hurry upstairs. They look deliciously plump today."

Kara and I tensed. I hated this part of our mission. We had to let Étienne's children feed on other innocent children. We had to sit here and let it happen and not lift a finger to stop it. Otherwise we would never get close enough to Étienne.

Jacqueline sensed our tension but seemed genuinely puzzled by it. I shuddered at how Étienne had raised them over the centuries to be so cold and uncaring. Sure. Eating small human children was no different from eating some sandwich meat from the grocery store. Didn't everybody do that?

Jacqueline shrugged and leaned in to give Kara a kiss on the cheek.

"Bye, Kara," she said in her tiny high voice.

"Bye, Jacqueline," Kara said.

Jacqueline turned to me and kissed me on the cheek.

"Bye, Sparky," she said. She giggled and skipped out the room.

I didn't tell her goodbye. I was too stunned that she knew who I was in this completely different body.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Infiltration - 3

The sun had just gone down and we climbed into the Lamborghini. This time I was driving. I still had a big smile on my face. We had planned on sleeping through the daylight hours to get some rest, but somehow that never happened. Kara was smiling, too.

Lawrence had supplied us with plenty of blood packs, so we didn't have to worry about feeding. The road was fairly deserted, and probably would stay that way until we reached the city. I reached over and took Kara's hand and she interlaced her fingers through mine.

"Kara, I will figure out a way out of this for us. I promise."

She squeezed my hand. "That would be nice."

I could tell she didn't think there was any way out of this. Even if we were the last two vampires remaining, and we promised to be really good and not make any other vampires, we could still be captured and forced into spreading the curse. It was too dangerous for us to remain alive. Kara knew it and I knew it.

And I didn't care. I wouldn't let any harm come to her.

Two hours later we arrived at the club. Tonight we were dressed a bit more conservatively than last time. Both of us wore black leather pants and coats, and I had on my cloak, which had turned black just for this occasion. If we had dressed in the lighter, more revealing clothing from last time, we wouldn't have been able to hide all the guns and knives we were now carrying.

We walked purposefully in through the front door, heading straight for the service elevator in back. Four bouncers immediately saw us, didn't like what they saw, and closed in. They made the mistake of trying to grab us. I slid down, avoiding a hand and grabbing his arm above and below the elbow as I used his own momentum to send him flying into the wall. Another bouncer ducked his head and charged at me, going for a tackle. I waited until the last second and used the cloak to levitate my entire body into the air, twisting to the side as my foot caught him in the jaw. He dropped to the floor unconscious.

I landed on my feet and looked up to see Kara, standing there with her arms crossed. The other two bouncers were unconscious on the floor behind her. "What took you so long?" she asked, grinning.

I gave her a quick kiss and pressed the down elevator button. We looked at each other, still smiling, still in the afterglow. The elevator doors opened.

Four vampires were inside, and they didn't look very pleased.