in the evening
the long way around
I was not lonely
only alone with myself
begging myself not to leave my own body
but I was leaving.
How do you say good-bye to yourself?
There is a choice.
Pam asked me, as I had asked her what it felt like to die for the day, if I remembered anything when I was under or in between or whatever that stasis was called that bridged the way from my human death to my vampire life. I struggled to recover an image. I wanted to give her something, an answer to a question, but there were no images to be had, only impressions, like her dreams as she'd described them to me. Bursts of light. Fireworks. Then falling into something dark, quiet and deep. The call of a grieving lover breaking through the silence. The idea of a choice.
I couldn't help it. I came back.
There was also, in the deepest core of this "in between", absolute peace. Warmth, rest, as if everything were done, all lists had their items checked off. This was after I died and before I began to hear the strains of a voice I thought I had left behind forever. Everything was not done. There was a sliver of something, expanding into a larger siren call, his call, his grieving for me whistling like wind through the eaves of my old family house. It broke through the peace and broke my heart over and over again until I had to choose whether or not to come back and fix it. There really was no choice to be made because the answer was so obvious. How could I leave him alone? My other half, my love, my heart.
These are the impressions I remember but I didn't know how much to share. So I just told Pam the part about falling, about peace, about the urge to return, which I told her I couldn't explain. I'm not sure if she believed me entirely about that last part, but she didn't ask again.
When I fell, it was with the gathering speed of a meteor, feeling the pull of the earth and tumbling back to it in a gown of streaking flames.
Then I woke up. It was horrible and full of pain, until his presence rose in my mind like a curtain from a ready stage. He was coming. He was here. He was angry, afraid, horrified, shocked. I didn't want him to hurt Pam. Eric stop. And he did, kneeling before me like he didn't know me at all, touching my face with soft, cool fingers. I was grateful, I really was. He was still afraid, horrified, full of wonder and love and lust. Feeling his fingers trace my cheeks again, I was saved. This was a good thing.
As Eric lifted me up from the ground, I could feel how much he wanted me. I wanted him so badly I could hardly see through the haze of it, yet all I managed was a quickly stolen kiss in the backseat of a car. Pam's car, if I remembered correctly. It was strange to reach backward for memories that were so clearly part of a completely different life. The only easy thing was his voice, his touch, the furrow of his brow as he regarded me across the table in Pam's kitchen, all telling me in different ways that everything would be okay.
Pam explained many things I already knew about vampires in general. It was her detailed memory of the night of my death that intrigued me the most because I hardly remembered any of it. The burst of metal, glass and stars. Pain. Quiet. The fall. The deep.
When I got tired, I got tired. Exhaustion like I'd never felt before overtook me and I could barely register anything but the need for rest. It felt like a kidnapping. Eyes covered, body seized and dragged away, out of my control. Floating on the edge of sleep, I felt the bed sink with his weight. I think he touched my face again but I can't be sure. When I see him at the bar the next night, he tells me that he loves me. We cannot lie to each other. I tell him I love him, too. Then I had to eat.
Pam understood how squeamish I was about biting someone. It would inevitably be some eager human I'd never met and because in my experience the biting had always been so intimate, I didn't want to do it. To my surprise, she said I didn't have to. She herself had survived on harvested blood for months before Eric had accompanied her on a nighttime hunt to find and bite her first meal. I was very eager, perhaps too much so, she said. He was being cautious. So I was cautious, too. I was surprised at how little it bothered me to slice a girl's wrist open and let her blood flow into a glass for me to drink. I might as well have opened a carton of milk and poured. This was a different reason to be afraid.
I was different. I had never felt that my life was in danger from any of the vampires with whom I was close, in one way or another. Even locked in a car trunk with Bill, I understood that the threat came from the horrible things that had been done to him. Eric had been on alert when I found him running desperately down the side of the road on the way to my house that cold January night, but I'd had no problem sitting next to him in my car, inviting him into my house. But vampires in need were vicious and, above all, completely blind to anything but the goal of getting food. I'd had a scar on my arm as proof of my knowledge, but that scar had sunk back into my body, leaving pale, smooth skin behind it. I didn't want to be that blind, vicious creature but I was afraid it would happen anyway and no one would be able to stop me from doing real and serious damage. In the past, I'd never wanted to kill or even frighten anyone, which just goes to prove that saying about not getting everything we want. I was also afraid that I'd do real and serious damage because I wanted to and because I thought I'd get away with it.
Because I felt smarter, too. Better. Like I knew something everyone else with a pulse didn't know. And the truth is, I did. I knew about the possibility of a choice. I knew that if there was something between lives, then there must be something after all of it, too. Understanding spread like warmth. This is why they—we—seem so fucking smug sometimes. We really do know something humans don't.
What I remember most about that first night at Fangtasia was not my first taste of human blood or even all my questions to myself about who I was now. Through my confusion and fear, there was his voice. Not out loud when he asked me questions and said he was sorry and that he loved me, but in my head. I heard what he wanted to say before he said it: I love her how do I say this not saying it before cost us so much I love her.
And then: …If we burn up and die for good in the next minute, know that I love you.
When he scowled at me from across the bar, I asked him what was wrong and he heard me, too. I thought so. This was, for now, our secret. When I would see him on other nights, we'd sit and test the strength of this mental connection, which was more than the bond had been when I was alive. This was a bridge across which either of us could walk freely, back and forth. I showed him the sun, with memories much more recent than his that would have to satisfy us both for the rest of our time on Earth. He showed me his own long ago impressions of sunlit trees and sky, in the place where he'd been born, that he hadn't seen for hundreds of years.
Pam drove us to Merlotte's on the second night. I told her we had to tell Sam and my brother next because I didn't want them to hear it from anyone else. When Sam saw me, his whole body seemed to slow down. I jumped up from where I was sitting at his desk and hugged him for all I was worth. He grunted a little and I loosened my arms. This whole "vampire strength" thing would definitely take more practice. Out front, everyone fell into silence at the sight of me and I remembered then that I couldn't blush. I could, however, pluck the thoughts out of every single one of their heads if I wanted to do it but found my control was stronger and I could make them shut the hell up, too, and that's what I did.
Across the room, Arlene dropped a glass and cut her finger in her haste to clean up the pieces. My first thought was snack time. My second thought was to mess with her. Funny how my instincts had changed. Where before I would have helped her even though we weren't friends anymore, thinking about things like bandages and stitches and antibiotic ointment, now I went first to food and second to causing trouble. As I stood in front of my former friend, I had to actively seek out the impulse to help. Ignoring the restraint of Pam and Sam (ha ha) on either side of me, I just smiled at the circle of people that had formed around this little spectacle and I knew it was charming. I knew there was a new edge to that grin of mine, sharp as fangs. I knew that glamour would come easily to me. I knew that my old self was truly dead and that my new self was very different.
We left Merlotte's a little while later to go see Jason, who was predictably drunk off his ass. I felt sorry for my brother, alone in his house with a six-pack of Budweiser. It was so quiet. He wasn't even watching television. I was glad I could feel sorry for him. Pam and I rang the doorbell and then opened the door when he didn't answer. I called out to him to invite us in. He staggered out of the living room and asked us if he was dreaming and we were here for the party. Did we bring any costumes? Jason, it's me. He shook his head. Then he nodded. Come in, he said, and we did. He'd disappeared into the kitchen and came out with two warm bottles of True Blood. I was surprised. I thought this might happen, he said, I hoped it would. He was smarter than I thought. Or maybe he thought he was still dreaming.
The next night, she called Amelia. I thought it would be weird to call her myself, some creepy dead voice over the phone, straight out of a horror movie. I heard her surprise, her exuberance over the phone. When I talked to her, she asked to come back and stay in my house again. She swung like a pendulum between crying with happiness and bubbling with ideas on how to update my home so I could live safely there. I had never been able to hear anyone's thoughts over the phone, but with her I was pretty close.
After a month, Bill finally came home and we talked. It was just for a couple of hours, but in that time, he told me where he'd been over the last month in that perfect narrative way he had. I had asked Pam where he was after I'd first risen, but her face took on a troubled look and she said she didn't know. She'd said she would find him and I guess she did. I had later drifted to Eric's table and didn't see Bill leave. That night, I set aside the whole knife-and-glass ritual and bit my donor's wrist. I think it's funny how the word "donor" sounds so much like "dinner". I heard the next night that he'd gone to England, with no specific date of return.
Throughout all of this slow reconnecting, Pam was there. She was there when I woke up to help stave off the first pangs of dangerous hunger and had wordlessly opened up her house and even her entire life to me, making me a part of it. I had always considered her a friend but had never seen such willingness from her to make room for another person. With my change came her own.
And there was always Eric, waiting for me. We spent our first night together together after Bill left. There were many more nights after that one. We said in words, in touch, in shared images of trees and sky that we each loved the other. The depth of it was there for us to explore for as long as we wanted. Every broken thing fell back together, with the ease of gravity, of a meteor falling to earth in a gown of flames.
Like Pam, he always wakes up before I do. He greets me in the evening with a warmth he doesn't have, that he has taken care to create. He said that before me, he had been a forest dry as bone, just waiting for something to light it up. And I, the spark landing deep within and setting us both on fire.
Together, he and I are the lights you see, falling through the sky at night.