September 19 2006
The hunger is stronger than ever today, I fear I may be unable to resist it much longer. But I must, otherwise I will have betrayed both myself and the memory of my family. Mark came again today, to my little room. He brought me some food, which was nice, but ultimately not worth much. I had to hide lest I attacked him. He complained about this for a while outside the door, but I think he understands. I might go so far as to call him a friend, if I were willing to risk that. I daren't though, for fear of losing him like I lost all the others, like I lost my family.
I miss them especially today.
Child of Darkness
Lightening flashed across the dark streets of the city, illuminating the slick, rain soaked sidewalk for brief moments of time. Streetlamps guttered and spat their never-ending symphony of light across the darkness, sending long black shadows into distant corners, alleyways, doors.
Out of one of these doors she stepped into the falling mist, pulling the collar of a black leather coat a little closer around her shoulders. Her step betrayed an unheeding disdain overlaid with a stealthy appreciation of the danger of being out so late at night. Of course even the criminal element preferred to stay at home on nights like this. So, there was only one danger to face on a night like this. Her own kind.
They were nearby. She could smell them on the air, very close now... did they know she was here? Did they care? She never knew if they could sense the difference within her, the sheer force of will that kept her above their animal instincts...
They stayed away tonight. The sun would be up soon anyway, and then it wouldn't really matter any more.
It hadn't always been like this. There as a time, she could remember, so very long ago when the Hunger hadn't clawed at her, when she had been young, innocent... human. She felt her mind casting back once more, playing over the events of her life...
So long ago.
AGE OF INNOCENCE
September 1 1999
"Lisa, it's time for supper! Are you coming down?"
"In a minute!"
Lisa Simpson placed her pen gently on the desk and looked at her reflection in the mirror. She was a year older now, 15... yet she didn't feel any different. It was the same every year.
This year was a little different though. Lisa, for the first time in her life, had noticed how different boys really were; not in the dreamy, innocent way she had longed after Correy in her youth, but something subtler... but Lisa never dated. Really dated. There had been that fling with Milhouse last year, but they hadn't even kissed.
Lucky for me, she thought. Now though... there was only one change she had made to her appearance, in all the years of her life. She touched the thin black choker at her neck and thought of the young man a whole two grades above her, who never seemed to notice little Lisa even when he spoke to her. His apparent disdain for everyone else spoke volumes to Lisa in itself; he was a man confident in himself, feeling superior to everyone, and that appealed to her in some way.
But he hadn't noticed her, had he? Even though she was starting to dress just a little like him now, to get his attention perhaps? Lisa didn't know why she would do that...
"Coming!" In the fragmented darkness of her memory, Lisa jumped from her seat and ran downstairs to her family.
She shivered slightly in the rain and touched the choker at her neck, the only memento of the life she had lost now, but also the reminder of what she had become.September 1 2006
Sunlight shafted across the room from the window, casting a thin wall of brightness in the dusty air, shining a razor-thin crease of brightness on the far wall and floor and the single picture that lay on the low, dusty table in the centre of the room, a picture of a family in happier times, long dead.
At one time Lisa might have worried about the dust affecting her health, as she had worried about so many things in her youth. Now it was the light itself. She leaned gently across and pushed the curtain against its partner, cutting out the last direct beams of light and leaving the room cast in a suffuse orange glow.
Through long years of training she had managed to build a tolerance to the sun, enough that she could even go outside on cloudy days, although there was a risk of sunburn. It was tolerable, but by no means ideal...
She settled down at the table, opening a large book and pressing a smaller, black leather-bound bible to one side. She glanced at the Christian book, wondering why she even had it; it was hard to find solace within its thin pages these days, at least not alongside her less savoury contemplations.
After nearly eight years of searching she was getting a little closer to her goal; once she had completed that goal she would step out into the sunlight one last time. Perhaps then she might find what she needed in the book, but not now.
The other, larger tome in front of her was so diametrically opposed to the first that it seemed somehow perverse to have them both in the same room. A list, acquired at great expense, of the "recruits" into an organisation that she was, technically, a part of. It was the final piece of a puzzle that would hopefully lead to the one who had put her in this position. She thought about the man who had smuggled it out of the Senate Research library in Washington. The look on his face when she had found his body later that day, the vicious wound on his neck. He had been a friend.
So she had moved to another state once more, to New York, home of more noirish novels than she could remember, and even a film or two about people like her. It was mildly interesting to note how wrong they all were, with the possible of Buffy, oddly enough. Except there was no slayer. It was more like that film... she smiled just a little when she remembered being thrown out of the theatre for laughing so much.
New York was a quiet city these days, especially at night. There were few of her kind in the city, most of them had been driven out years ago by the tough zero tolerance laws and the eventual curfews. They didn't apply to Lisa, of course, as she worked nights in a government office, filing papers and doing research.
But now she was distracting herself. So close, and she couldn't keep her mind on things. She turned back to the book and flipped the pages, looking for the name. Julian Price. After searching the entire volume she came up empty, and frustrated. He wasn't there. Her friend had died in vain, just like all the rest.
She slammed the book closed, sending a fresh cloud of dust into the dull atmosphere of the room.
There was a knock at the door. Lisa ignored it, preferring to sulk over the battered leather binding of the list. But, eventually, she had to give into the persistent knocking.
"Go away!" she yelled irritably.
"Lisa? It's me, Mark. Mark Brachino? From the office?"
"What do you want?" Mark. He followed Lisa around like a puppy at work, probably attracted by her aloof, quiet ways. He was so like the last, Lisa was scared of getting too close to him.
"I-I just wanted to talk, that's all. Boss sent some extra work down here for you too, said you liked doing research." Well, at least one thing in her life was normal. Escaping from work was harder than anything in the world.
"Just a minute." Lisa stood up slowly, covering the List with a newspaper and a pile of unrelated books. She crossed the small kitchen, into the hall and paused at the door. If I let him in, he'll get a bit closer won't he?
"Come on Lisa, hurry up! It's freezing out here!"
If I get close, I'll lose him, just like the others. I can't do that, can I? But another pert of her mind argued that it might be different this time. Maybe...
"I know it's your birthday today Lisa. I looked it up... so are you going to let me in?"
Dammit. Her birthday... she couldn't push him away now, not if she wanted to retain any last vestiges of her humanity. To hell with the consequences.
She opened the door.September 1 1999
Lisa jumped back in shock as her family yelled at her. Then the party things came showering at her like confetti; hats, whistles, presents... she retreated into a numb, shocked shell of herself, standing mutely among the celebration. Mere moments passed, though each seemed like an age, before she uttered her first words.
"What the hell?"
"Lisa!" Homer yelled.
"Aww Homie let her be. We did give her quite a shock."
"You're right about that," she mumbled. "What's going on anyway? I said I didn't want a party this year."
"Well Lis," her brother argued, "You've gotta admit, it is fun when things like this happen. Right?"
"I guess..." and it was fun, truthfully. She had secretly hoped that her family would do something for her birthday, even though she had protested otherwise several times. Yet, even up to the last minute they had seemed totally unconcerned, almost uncaring... not that it mattered in the least now.
Lisa accepted a plate of party food, real party food full important food groups like Sticky Stuff and Sugar, from Marge. "We've got presents for you, and we even invited some of your school friends over."
"What? But I don't have any school friends!"
"Nonsense..." Marge smiled a motherly smile. "I did some research, so I think you'll like who's coming. It won't be like the last time I tried this."
The 'last time' had involved several people Lisa barely knew turning up, eating the food and then leaving without even speaking to her. That had unfortunately soured her friendship with Marge a little and, evidently, she was trying to make up for it this time around.
"I promise you won't be ignored this time," Marge said brightly. "And definitely no Milhouse either."
Well at least that was a relief. The poor boy was still besotted with her and was probably already rehearsing his pick-up lines for the senior prom that was many years away yet... Saved from that small embarrassment, Lisa wondered who could possibly be arriving on her doorstep.
The bell rang, prompting Bart, of all people, to leap up and run for the door yelling "I'll get it!"
"Who is it Bart?" Marge asked sardonically.
"Why it's Janey and... Ralph?" Bart shuffled backwards into the room, keeping a careful eye on the young simpleton. "Umm..."
"He's with me, if you're wondering," Janey explained. "We're kinda-sorta... y'know, 'friends'? Isn't that right Ralph?"
"Hi Lisa, hi Bart! You're my friend..." Ralph pointed at Bart and giggled childishly.
"I guess he hasn't changed much," said Bart to Lisa quietly.
"Oh I have, I have," replied Ralph, suddenly lucid and coherent. "The pills work wonders. I was just jazzin you a bit."
Ralph and Janey wandered away to the table, not holding hands, Lisa noticed. They were followed in by more people from Lisa's class, all of them actually quite familiar. Then the Librarian turned up, all ginger hair and saggy jowls, amazingly up to date on the latest trends whilst managing to keep an air of mystique about him. After him, one or two friends from outside school turned up. It was... pleasant.
"Odd," Marge said as the party got into full swing. "There was someone else... oh well, never mind." Lisa wondered who the someone else might be. Her heart quickened for a moment... she couldn't possibly know about Lisa's little... was it a crush? Fantasy? The doorbell rang again and this time Marge went to answer. Lisa heard her muffled voice alongside another, quieter one.
"Julian! Come on in! I hope you don't mind coming over at this time of night."
"Not at all Mrs Simpson, I seem to be staying up a lot later these days." The soft dulcet tones of his voice carried through the wall as clear as a bell, almost as if they were projected straight into Lisa's mind. She sighed, her face taking on a dreamy look.
"Lisa, there's someone here to see you." Marge guided Julian into the room. He was tall, gaunt, yet strikingly handsome. A shock of platinum hair topped off his pale features; high cheekbones offset against a thin, almost pointed chin, making him look almost elfish. Beneath that was black all the way to the ground dressed as he was in a Matrix style techno-goth outfit, complete with a single silver chain hanging from the leather chocker he wore. Lisa, for all the negative associations she saw in his manner of dress, felt like swooning.
"I brought you something," Julian mumbled. Was he as nervous as her? With renewed confidence Lisa took the small package offered and carefully removed the black paper. Inside was a small perspex box, enclosing a delicate silver brooch in the form of a snake biting it's own tail.
"Ouroboros," she whispered. "It's lovely."
Lisa pinned the brooch on to her dress, the silver on black a sharp contrast with the red material beneath. Maybe she should change that...
"Thank you," she said. Julian smiled a little. There seemed to be a hint of colour on his pale cheeks, which set Lisa blushing herself. "I'd better go and... uh... y'know..."
"Yeah, probably a good idea," he replied awkwardly.
Lisa moved into the small crowd around the food, making light conversation about inane subjects with a few close acquaintances, all the while thinking about Julian. Until yesterday ha hadn't seemed to notice her, yet from the way he acted around her... it was odd, really. He was two years her senior, yet he acted just like the boys in her own class when they were around women. Maybe there was hope after all...
Eventually she could bear it no longer. She pulled away from the crowd to find Julian... but he had already left. Lisa sought out Marge and grabbed her hand.
"Mom where did he go?"
"Who, Julian? I don't know sweetie, he mentioned something about a meeting at a 'goth' club, I think. Some kind of group anyway... why?"
"I..." Lisa baulked. What could she say? It was obvious her mother already knew something of what was going on. "I... just wondered."
"He likes you," Marge replied.
"You know, he actually asked me what you were doing for your birthday? I was a little surprised really, but he asked if he could come along..."
"He did?" So it was true... Maybe I'll see him tomorrow then," Lisa thought, her face turning dreamy again. She returned to the party and made an effort to enjoy herself.September 1 2006
"Don't you ever sleep?" Lisa asked Mark warily as she let him into her apartment. He smiled wanly
"I could ask you the same thing," he protested. "Anyway, I brought a drink, sort of a birthday present I guess."
Mark held up a wine bottle, which Lisa presumed to be something cheap and bubbly. She was taken aback when she saw the label.
"Moët? How can you afford Moët on your paycheck?"
"I guess I'll have to starve for a week," he said. "I just wanted you to have something nice for once. Seems like you never do."
"How the hell would you know?"
"Hey, I know people all right? I watch. You've spent half your life being dumped on from a great height and that's why you're working nights in that craphole we call an office. Now, are you going to drink your birthday present or what?"
"Well, if you put it that way..." Lisa took hold of the bottle with a slight grimace. It had been a long time since she had drunk anything stronger than water. "Perhaps you should open it."
Lisa handed the bottle back and led Mark into the kitchen. It was actually quite bare, barely used... she didn't have much use for it really, and dust had settled on some of the worktops.
"I guess you eat out a lot huh."
"Wha? Oh... yes, that's right." If only he knew about her trips to the slaughterhouse... "I prefer fresh food as much as possible. Anyway what about this work you told me about?"
"I left it out there somewhere," Mark replied, motioning vaguely toward the other room, before returning to working the cork loose. "It's just some research material for the governor's office I think, I didn't really look hard."
The cork shot out of the bottle, bouncing off the wall and ceiling, eventually dropping to a halt in the middle of the table. Mark looked down at it. "Hey, perfect shot..."
He reached two slight dusty glasses out of a cupboard and poured them both a drink.
"To birthdays," he said, raising his glass.
"No... anniversaries." Mark shrugged at Lisa's comment and they both drank, although Lisa didn't take as much as him. The flavour was... different. Weak.
"Hey what's this?" Mark put his glass down and started lifting books from the pile on the table, books with names like 'Pratchett's Psychology of the Vampire' and 'Mythical Beasts and their Modern Counterparts in the Human Psyche' "You're into some heavy stuff, you know that?"
Lisa could only watch as he dug deeper into the pile. "You know I'd rather you didn't look at that."
"Eh, what harm can it do?" He paused and looked up again. "Unless you have something freaky hidden in there."
"No." Lisa snatched the book Mark was holding from his hands and put it back on the table. "I don't want you messing up my system. All these books are for a private research project I'm doing-
"About people who claim to be vampires. I'm hoping I can take something to the AG's office because you'd be surprised at how many murders these people commit."
"I know bullshit when I hear it, Lisa... but on the other hand this fizz is losing its fizz. We'll go in the other room if that makes you happier."
Lisa stepped back and let him go first. A small part of her mind wondered if she should tell him, but the rest argued that it would just scare him away, or that he'd call her a freak or something, which was something she didn't like hearing. Even having him in the apartment was an incredible strain for her; it was just fortunate he hadn't looked in the fridge, where she kept a small emergency supply... then the monster within coolly informed her that he could last several months if she wanted it. Lisa closed her eyes and clenched her fists until the horrific images her imagination conjured went away.
Calm again, she forced a slight smile on to her face and joined Mark on the couch. He held out a refilled glass, drained the last of his own drink and then opened a fat document folder on the table.
"All right, lets see what we have here..." Mark leafed through the pages. "Pretty boring really, some kind of auditing thing I guess. Jeez it's dark in here..."
Mark got up. "You've got the curtains closed! No wonder I can't see anything."
"I prefer it that way."
"Your call I guess..." He shuffled his feet. "Well, this stuff doesn't have to be ready for another week anyway, so..."
"I could have picked this up at the office when I got in," Lisa replied, leafing through a small collection of photographs in the file.
"True, but it was your birthday, and you always seem kinda lonely."
"I prefer it that way," she said again, her voice perhaps betraying a little less confidence in the sentiment.
"You know, if you ever want to get out somewhere... for a meal or something..."
"Maybe." He was asking her for a date, wasn't he? Dammit... thirty minutes talking and she was already too close.
"How does Saturday night sound?"
"Maybe..." The worst part was, Lisa could feel herself wanting to say yes. She was lonely, especially after moving to New York, so far from home... "I sleep during the day, so it would be more like breakfast. If I go, that is."
"Okay, how about... eight?"
The sun was down at eight, so there was no danger... but there was still risk. She was framing 'no' as an answer in her mind, but some half-formed notion at the edge of her conscious distracted her. Something important... She didn't even hear herself speaking. "Eight sounds fine to me."
"Great, I'll come and pick you up. I know this great place..."
What am I after? Lisa asked herself, after closing the door on Mark. She started flipping through the file again.September 17 1999
"Jules!" Lisa pulled her overweight bag on to her shoulder and ran across the hallway to where Julian was standing. He was wearing a brooch similar to hers; in fact, it seemed more like a badge when he wore it. Was it some kind of frat thing?
"Hey, you look great!" he said with a wan smile. Lisa thought he looked ill, even as he concluded his always brief complement. "Nice get up."
"Thanks." She blushed slightly as they walked through the school. In the weeks since she meeting Julian she had rapidly transformed her image. Gone were the bright orange dress, something she had worn in one form or another since elementary school, and the matching orange shoes. In their place, black cotton pants, a somewhat expensive black jacket that went all the way to her ankles and a black shirt with white ruffs at the collar and cuffs. It was the same style she had worn every day to school since then, and yet every time she saw Julian it was as if he saw her in it for the first time. Quite charming, she thought dreamily.
She didn't wear pale make-up though, because she thought the white-skinned, black-clothed wannabe corpse was just so clichéd...
Julian was talking again.
"... out in the woods most nights, in a huge old mansion. We get together and tell ghost stories and things. It's cool. You'd love it."
"Uh... love what? Sorry, I was miles away for a moment."
"Oh, yeah no problem." He did have a wonderful smile... "It's this gang I'm with. Some of them are older, but they're cool too. You wanna come out with us one night?"
"To the forest?" Her parents wouldn't like that much, would they? Then again, she was fifteen now... "Okay, sounds fun. When?"
"Tonight, at midnight."
"Oooh I don't think I've ever stayed out that late before." Tough choice. On the one had it sounded thrilling, but then again she was devoted to her parents still, and probably would be for a long time to come. Still, a little adventure never hurt. What the hell, she could say she was staying at Janey's or something...
"Is that a yes?"
"Great." He seemed hesitant, just for a moment, and Lisa wondered if he were hiding something. "I should tell you, we... they have this little ritual when new members join, sort of like hazing."
"Do you know what it's like?"
"Me? Oh no, I've been told it's just sitting in a dark room while they try and scare you, but I've never been through it yet... I will be tonight. That's why I wanted you there."
"Oh Julian... that's so sweet." They reached the end of the corridor, Julian seemed to be hanging back a bit, as if he didn't want leave the building which caused Lisa to pause with her hand on the door. "Are you okay?"
"Oh, fine. I have a class just back there," he said, pointing over his shoulder. "I'll see you tonight by the lyceum, say nine o'clock?"
Julian retreated along the corridor and Lisa, a large smile on her face, pushed through the double doors of the school and out into the sunlight.