"I'm so sorry, Amanda. I'm the watcher. I'm supposed to be the watcher, and I screwed up." That moment played itself over in my mind for the hundredth time, as it invariably did every time we approached the anniversary.

Amanda Benson escaped Dark Falls almost three years ago. Her family being the only ones to ever elude us. The fact I was bested by her and her little brother's idiocy infuriated me. I wanted nothing more than to hate Amanda. And I did. But that wasn't enough. Hating her wouldn't do, because it wasn't the only thing I felt for her. You couldn't call it love. I barely knew her. Barely met her. It was just a crush. One which lingered ever since her brother shone that light on me and my flesh liquefied. Foolishly, they thought I was finished. But, like my feelings for her, I linger. Just as the residents of the town do.

She must be nearly fifteen by now. Or perhaps she already was. I neglected to ask her when her birthday was.

Fifteen... I mused gloomily.

I'm still eleven. Physically. That would never change. My eighteenth birthday recently passed, though it was hardly celebrated. Years ago, I made it clear to my parents how I felt about being stuck in my current manifestation. To grow mentally but always being confined to the body of a child was its own hell. No less it was the corpse of a child. Year after year, it disgusted me more. Like clothes you could never change. All the dirt and filth ever clinging to your body.

I despised it, and somehow, I still recall wanting to share it with Amanda. I recall starting the ritual, my eyes casting a dull red glow. Hovering over her frail young body. I could feel the warmth draining from her frame. Her heart slowing dramatically.

That beam of light.

Damn that Josh. Bitterly, it occurred to me that even he would be fourteen by now. Biologically my senior. It made my still stomach lurch. Which reminded me...

We'd be feasting soon. A new family was being duped into hosting our annual blood drive. It didn't take much. Among the entire town, we especially couldn't afford it. Ounces. That was all we needed for a year's time to get our fill. Two cycles had since passed.

One family arrived shortly after Amanda left. It made me wonder if she encountered them. And, if she did, why she didn't warn them.

The first few weeks after our feast were when we were at our strongest. Our strength peaked maybe a month, and gradually tapered off over a year's time. The final few weeks were always the worst. That was when our powers sank to near-mortal levels. It was when the hunger and exhaustion began to affect us. It was no wonder we enjoyed feasting as much as we did, and why we were so desperate for our yearly fill. We'd have liked to drink more than once a year, but we recruited too often as it was. Families continued to disappear every year. In the back of my mind, I knew it was only a matter of time until we were found out.

And then what?

Heh, as if it mattered. Death would be a blessing, assuming the government found a way to truly exterminate us. I welcomed the thought. However, I wasn't ready to die quite yet. There was still one thing left to be done. One thing I knew would haunt my spirit if I were to die before completing the task. It had been a notion three years in the making, but I had finally found the resolve. I was nearly prepared.

I mentioned we're strongest once we've consumed fresh blood. I decided I'd test just how powerful I'd become.

Ordinarily, we're bound to this town, as if by some spell. Those who have tried to wander off never make it far. Their accounts all vary in one way or another, but one constant remains: the farther you try to leave Dark Falls' bounds, the more pain you experience. Maybe the pain of your soul being separated from the decaying flesh of our bodies. Maybe the pain of being dragged toward hell. Whatever its origin, it was often too overwhelming to endure. Invariably, everyone wandered back eventually.

If I were to defy this spell, I'd have to reach the pinnacle of my strength. It was a long shot, but the only one I had. There was no conceivable way to make Amanda come back. At least, not without using force. I could manage that, but only if I were able to leave the town first.

Yes, it was my only hope. To quell this flame in my stomach that burned with hatred of her and a love I didn't understand.

I would extinguish all when I ended her life.