"Sir, are you okay?" The nurse asked John as he sat in the comfortably firm doctor's chair in the blood bank.
John's eyes fluttered opened and his dazed mind slowly cleared. The nurse's concerned voice had dragged him from his thoughts of pleasure and contentment. He had been dreaming of Cassandra.
The nurse looked at him with a wary eye, and continued, "I've never seen anyone enjoy giving blood quite as much as you do, Mr. Voerg. You seem to, ah, well, take so much pleasure in it. It's quite the opposite of the people I'm used to seeing in here."
"I'm fine, thank you. I, ah, was just thinking of something nice to pass the time. I guess sometimes I sink into my thoughts just a little too much," John said slowly, with a weak smile.
"I bet you do. You men always seem to be able to occupy your minds, somehow," the nurse responded with a wink, as she placed the Band-Aid on the inside of his arm. "All done. You can go now."
John rose from the table and left the screened in area of the blood bank. He stopped by the mirror, and yes his skin now had that healthy glow. He smoothed his dark hair, which he noticed had now regained some of its luster. He had to remember not to wait so long before the next blood donation.
Immediately upon exiting the building, John looked around and noticed the sun's position in the sky. He quickly glanced at his watch, which read 5:15 p.m. A sense of inbred urgency overwhelmed his body. He began to walk, nearly in a run, toward his home. He wondered how he had let the time get away from him so easily. He needed to get the alarm fixed on his watch.
The sun was beginning to set on this warm August day, but a shiver of a chill swept over John's body. It was a strong reminder of his tardiness. He was almost out of danger. Just one more block and he would be in the safety of his home.
"Sir, I can help you reach salvation," a man with a fist full of literature said, as he planted himself firmly in John's path.
John saw the reflection of the sun's quick descent in the man's eyeglasses.
John, trying to brush past him, said tightly, "I'm sorry, but I really must be getting home."
"If you'll just take five minutes, and read through these pages, you can be assured of your everlasting peace and your salvation in the afterworld," the man continued, ignoring John's attempts to go around him.
"Look, buddy, how do you know this isn't the afterworld? Now, I really, really have to go," John almost shouted, as he looked over his shoulder to see the last glimmer of sunlight fading.
Panic struck John as he began to feel the numbing sensation begin to settle in. He pushed past the man, knocking the literature out of his hands, sending pieces of paper flying everywhere.
"Damn it, look what you have done, you rude son of a...!" The man exclaimed violently, as John took off in a dash down the block.
John fumbled into his pockets, finally grasping the key to his house. The numbing sensation was getting worse in his legs, and had begun to spread. His fingers were barely able to feel the metal of the keys. He tried to leap up the front steps, stumbling as he lost the feeling in both of his legs. Willing himself to stand up, he held onto the doorknob for support, and the key finally found its mark.
He shakily turned it, and he fell headlong into the sanctuary of the brightly-lit interior. He laid the floor shaking violently, until his strength slowly returned.
Back on the street, darkness had settled in. The man that had tried to "save" John earlier was still picking up the papers that were strewn about the sidewalk. Sudden footsteps caused him to look up. He saw a woman walking down the sidewalk toward him.
"Ah, a chance to redeem myself for that messed up jerk," He thought to himself, as he stood and straightened his clothing.
As the woman closed in on his position, he stepped toward her and said, "Excuse me, Miss. Just a moment of your time, and I can help you reach your peace and salvation before afterlife is upon us."
The woman stopped, and smiled at him strangely. The man stared upon the beautiful, erotic face of the woman. She wore a black silky cloak that shrouded her figure in mystery, but enough was revealed to tantalize his thoughts. For some reason he found it difficult to speak, he was mesmerized by her breathless beauty.
Finally arranging his thoughts, he cleared his throat, "Well, ah, do suppose you could spare a few moments of your time, repentance can be had..."
The woman narrowed her riveting dark eyes, and glanced down the street, as if seeking something, someone.
The man, still enthralled by her beauty, tried to gain her attention again and continued, "Won't you let me read from my pamphlets to you? It's so hard to find someone to listen. Some are just so rude. Like this guy I was just talking to. He seemed so nice at first, then as the sun went down, he acted like the devil had gotten into him or something. He shoved me down and..."
The woman's head slowly turned to stare directly into his eyes.
"Where did he go?" She asked with a look of vehement determination in her eyes that frightened the man.
He almost thought he could see red in her eyes, and he decided to take a step back. The woman caught a whiff of his fear. She moved seductively toward him, as her eyes changed to an inviting glow. She placed her arm through his, her fingers gently stroking his bare arm.
In a soft husky voice, the woman said in his ear, "Let's talk for a moment, shall we. There is an alley this way, very private and quiet. Take me there."
The man was completely enchanted by her voice. He followed her instructions willingly, under a power not his own. Once hidden from the busy street, the woman stopped suddenly, her dark robes flowing about her body.
She drew his face close to hers, her fingertips teasing the hair on the back of his head. He could feel the sensual heat radiating from her.
"Now, tell me about the man that you met earlier," she said as she began to stroke the lines of his neck, her fingernails softly scratching his skin.
The man relayed the whole story from start to finish.
"Which house did he enter?" She asked in that same husky, determined voice, as she began to softly kiss where her hands had been.
"I don't know, somewhere down the block I think," the man responded, barely able to find his voice.
She knew this man could tell her no more, and decided his use to her was no longer.
She closed her eyes and imagined that this man was John. She imagined that this was the night that they joined in eternity.
She threw back her hood, exposing her features. The man staggered, unable to fathom such beauty. Her fingers sought the corded vein within the man's neck, and she placed her fatal kiss, the hot coppery taste filling her with ecstasy.
The woman drank deeply and knew that soon John would be hers, forever. The search would be over.
The lights inside of the house were overwhelmingly bright. The windows, however, were all completely covered, to keep the curious away from his sanctuary.
John felt his strength slowly flowing back into his body, as the lights rejuvenated him. He carefully made his way to the sofa and sat down.
"Whew, that was a close one," he said as he grabbed a piece of garlic from the dish that sat on his coffee table.
The familiar taste made him feel comfortable, and continued to provide strength to his body. As his composure returned, his thoughts drifted back to a time when he was "normal".
"Normal," John laughed sarcastically, bitterly.
He had been "normal" back in the early 1900's. Then, he had been a simple carpenter, a naive 21-year old, who made things with his tools and hands.
That was until he had met what he thought was the woman he loved, Cassandra. She had changed him, forever.
He had been drawn by her overwhelming beauty and seductiveness. But, as their emotions grew, she revealed that she was a mistress of the dark, a vampire.
But, this did not change his feelings for her, for he was completely enchanted. At first he was lured by her promises of indefinite love and belonging. As time passed, he fell completely in love with her and succumbed to her mesmeric advances. He then crossed over into the world of the undead, or at least somewhere in that direction.
She had given him pleasure that he had not thought possible. The final fatal kiss had sent him spiraling through space and time. He had expected to wake in her world of hunting and killing. But their encounter had taken place unbeknownst to them on holy ground.
Something had happened, unexpected by even those of her dark underworld. John had become opposite in every way to what Cassandra was. At first, there appeared to be no effect in his rebirth to the dark world, but after time, the oddities began to show themselves.
He began to grow weak in the darkness, and found he must have the light of day in order to survive. He began to feel his body swell with raging blood, and began to make frequent trips to the blood bank for donations. Because he had one of the most rare and untainted blood types in the world, so they were always glad to see him come in. He found he craved the taste of garlic, which seemed to give him energy and vitality.
These peculiar characteristics unfortunately left John in a precarious position. He was not accepted by either world, the undead, or the living one. He was not able to reach a point of compromise for both, and belonging was an attribute beyond his grasp.
The key point of contention in his life with Cassandra, was that he did not seek to pose a threat to living human beings as she did, along with her life-sucking cohorts.
This fact also posed an additional problem. Many in her world considered his rebirth as a black mark, or discredit to their dark existence. They either feared or felt disdain toward John. After a brief period of living with Cassandra and the brood of vampires, he quickly saw the futility of their arrangement.
He knew his existence was short-lived and the woman he loved also was threatened by what she had created. He departed abruptly hoping to salvage what they had in memories, and not bloodshed and sacrifice. Since that day, he had been on the run knowing that the vampire vendetta might span for centuries.
She knew that he was close. She felt him and his perverse existence. Cassandra had been following John since the day he left. She followed him from town to town, year after year, decade after decade. He had promised his everlasting love to her. He said he would stay with her forever. Yet, he had stolen away. The painful feelings of hurt and deceit were fresh in her mind. It was if it had happened yesterday, not almost a hundred years ago.
At first, she merely thought of him just as another life sustaining source for her - a man she would toy with until the urge to feed could no longer be kept at bay.
After time, though, her feelings, feelings that she thought she no longer possessed, returned. She fell completely in love with him and told him what she was. To her astonishment, he still loved her, unconditionally. He even agreed to join her in the dark underworld of her existence. But something had gone wrong. He had not become one of "them".
The brood of vampires that she consorted with had vowed his extermination, upon learning of his abrupt departure. Yet Cassandra swayed them away, vowing his death would be hers and hers alone. He had made her heart ache, and he would pay.
She returned her thoughts to the task at hand, and carefully stopped in front of each house on John's street. She would know the right one when she found it, she would feel him. Even though it seemed that an eternity had passed between them, they were bound in a higher sense.
The moonlight cast shadows amongst the old brownstone homes that lined the street. It reminded her of the earlier periods of her existence. In the beginning she hunted at night amongst the weak mortals, searching for those that would not be missed. The drunks and destitute of their own society. Society had created its own evil filled with apathy and uncaring. It was the code by which they lived and swore...
Suddenly her eyes grew wide. She stopped and stared at the illuminated house in front of her. This was it. He was here. She felt him.
John sat up abruptly from the sofa. He knew she was here. It had been a long time but he knew it was Cassandra. Their sardonic bond had been one in which they were bound for life. Their thoughts touched and merged. The recognition returned a sense of belonging, of togetherness, of everlasting love.
John moved slowly, as if in a trance toward the hallway of his house. He had always been prepared for such a meeting, he had always known the day would come. He activated the remote control he kept in his pocket that adjusted the lighting to the appropriate level. He then unlatched the door and moved to the far end of the hallway. Slowly the door opened and Cassandra nearly floated in.
They faced each other in the opaque light of the hallway. It provided the dark shadows for Cassandra, as well as subtle light for John - a parallel world in which they could both exist.
John began, in a voice filled with emotion, "I knew it would be you that found me."
"We are soul mates forever, in life and in death," Cassandra responded, breathlessly.
John stared into her beautiful face, unchanged by the ravages of time, perfect. He realized that he too, probably looked the same in her eyes. It was as if they had just been separated for only a short time, not a century.
Cassandra's plans for revenge were all but forgotten, as the old familiar emotions surfaced.
Tears welled in her eyes, as she demanded, "Why, John? Tell me why you left without even a goodbye? Why without me?"
John replied sadly, "It was the only thing I could think to do to save us both. There was no life for us there in your world. We were opposites, I could not survive the darkness, and you the light. I was prepared to become what you were to stay with you, but 'this' was not what I had bargained for."
He stared into her eyes and continued, "I could feel the disdain for me within the brood, and it was only a matter of time before they would have taken me to my final death, maybe even you."
Cassandra hung her head, "You are right, they would have exterminated you. But you should have taken me with you. To leave me without a word in the light of day. We can still make it work, somehow."
John, trying to keep his emotions in check responded, "I have thought of nothing else. How to make it work, Cassandra. How to find a neutral ground. But, I don't know how. We can never be 'normal'."
He searched her beautiful face for understanding and continued, "I can't live with your dire need to drink blood, now. Your thirst for the hunt and the kill. It's not normal."
Cassandra pleaded, "What is normal, John? Who is to say what is normal and what is not? You are not normal, and I love you just the same. Your need is as strong as mine to give blood is as it is for me to take. When we joined, our intent was not to become 'normal'. We wanted to be together, that was all that mattered. Remember?"
John closed his eyes and reveled in the memories. She was right. As time went by, he had willed himself not to remember those dark, but glorious days. He hadn't cared about what the outcome would be, as long as they could be together. They had joined in life and death, forever.
The words spoken and the silence that ensued emulated the truth between them. They had spoken what needed to be said. The distance between them closed as they took purposeful steps toward each other. The power drawing them together was as strong as it had been in the beginning, if not greater. They embraced. It was the embrace of a hundred-year love, finally coming to fulfillment. They were together.
John's fingers wrapped around the remote switch, which controlled the lighting. He tapped the sequence into the switch with his right hand, as he clung tightly to Cassandra with his left.
The light grew in intensity, as Cassandra winced from its appearance. John held her firmly and whispered, "together forever", softly in her ear. The intensity continued as Cassandra began to disintegrate at John's feet. Flesh and bones to dust, she was gone.
John stared at the pile of dust as if the shape intrigued him in some way. The months of anxiety and planning this moment were finally lifted from his chest. He would be safe now.
Cassandra had accepted her fate and gone ahead to their next meeting place, perhaps under a different context then she had imagined, but gone nevertheless.
John pocketed the remote switch as a casual smoker might place a pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket. He moved toward the corner of the hall and picked up a dust-pan and broom. He swept the remains onto the dust-pan and headed toward the kitchen. His eyes focused upon the particles that lay in a heap, " My Cassandra," he said as his foot pressed the pedal that opened the garbage can. He emptied the ashes into the plastic void that lay within. He stood and looked at the pile of ashes as it mixed with assorted waste that was already in the plastic receptacle.
"My Cassandra, you gave me an eternity of life, but made me a damn freak. I can never be normal again. But then, what is normal?" He asked his mood somber momentarily as he abruptly laughed and continued to stare at the garbage can contents. "What we had was never going to be anything that resembled normal. I can never be normal again." He removed his foot from the foot pedal that held the can open. It closed with a resounding thud. He turned and started walking away but stopped and looked back at the trash receptacle. He smiled wryly, yet with an expression of anger, guilt, and fear which had driven him insane over the years and said, "Normalcy sucks."