In a moment of anger, Vlad wishes he was a breather. He didn't bank on what would happen next – he and Erin have never met and while he clearly recognizes her, she hasn't a clue who he is. His family are still under threat from slayers and although he is now out of danger, neither Ingrid nor the Count are safe.
Vlad turned away from his father in a rage. Why did he never understand? He was sick of it, sick of always quarrelling with his father, sick of Bertrand reproachfully shaking his head, and most of all, he was sick of the way Ingrid smirked at him during a Vlad-Count confrontation. Bursting into his room, he slammed his door shut with a click of his fingers, ignoring Bertrand's and Erin's shouts to open the door. Looking around furiously, he then screamed the words that he would regret for the rest of his life:
'I wish I was a breather!'
When he woke up again, the first thing he felt was the cold early morning air. He blinked in bewilderment. Why was he lying on the floor? He peered around his bedroom. And why was his room empty? All the things he kept here, all the things that made his room personal, that made it his, were gone. As if he had never existed. He shrugged. Perhaps he was still concussed, or whatever it was that had happened. Jumping up, he exited the room and found himself knocking on the door of the bedroom that Erin stayed in. There was no reply. He knocked again, only to be greeted by silence. She was probably asleep, the sun wouldn't rise for about an hour or so. Or else she had just woken from one of her nightmares and was plugged into her iPod and listening with the volume turned up so high that she couldn't hear him.
Frowning, Vlad pushed the door open. Then he saw something that filled him with a terror so deep that it was as if a cold hand had snaked around his chest and made him stop breathing.
Erin's things were gone.
True, she had only arrived at the Dracula household with a few meagre possessions, but they were still noticeable. The only thing here was the coffin. It was as if Erin had never been here either. Where was she?
Vlad swallowed and tried to stay calm. He was sure that was all – but would she really leave and take all her belongings with her? And would she really leave at night? Vampires would be roaming the streets; she would have known it wasn't safe. But then, they were both as reckless as each other. Still, Vlad was beginning to get rather worried. He decided to go and find Bertrand, maybe he knew what was going on. But Bertrand couldn't care less about Erin – in his eyes, anything distracting the Chosen One was better off not there.
Vlad knocked on the door of Bertrand's room. There was no reply there either, but then why would there be? Vlad reasoned with himself. It was early morning, everyone was still asleep. He opened the door.
Just like his room, and Erin's, Bertrand's was empty. There was nothing there.
Vlad's mind gave way to panic. Where were they? Why had everyone suddenly abandoned him? He slowly made his way down to the courtyard of Garside Grange. The first rays of sun were shining through the large gaps in the clouds. Vlad stepped out into the courtyard, waiting for the hissing that meant his flesh was burning. It never came.
Suddenly he remembered last night. How he had quarrelled with his father. And how he had stormed into his room, screaming, "I wish I was a breather!"
Somehow, overnight, Vlad's wish had come true. He was no longer the Chosen One, he wasn't a vampire, he was free to roam the streets during the day, and there would be no more mindless violence or draining anyone of blood. Not that he had done much of that anyway.
His initial delight at this new discovery quickly turned to grief. The slayers had chased Ingrid, weeks and weeks ago, in order to get close to him, the Chosen One. Erin had rescued Ingrid, before the two girls met Vlad and arrived with him at Garside Grange. And Bertrand … Bertrand had only arrived because he had made it his duty to help the Chosen One … but if he was a breather, if he wasn't the Chosen One, then there would be no reason for Erin or Bertand to be here. And now they were both gone.
Why did he say that he wanted to be a breather? Why? Why? What had he been thinking? But that was the thing, he hadn't been thinking at all. Now he really understood the phrase, "be careful what you wish for".
The sunlight shone full on his face. So this is how it feels to be human, Vlad reflected. 'Human,' he said out loud, again and again: 'Human.' The word felt strange on his tongue. Human. Touching his neck briefly, he felt it: a pulse, a strong, throbbing pulse, the blood rushed around him and his body and he was alive. He felt a sudden adrenaline rush. Human. He stood there in the middle of the courtyard, held his arms out, embraced the sun. Human. In that split second, he forgot all about the Count, forgotten Ingrid, forgotten Bertrand, forgotten Erin, forgotten his mother and Patrick and Wolfie … and he breathed. Human. This was it, this was him, it was about him, it had always been about him, not the bloodthirsty vampire, not the Chosen One, Vladimir Dracula … was now alive. He was human.
This burst of happiness vanished as suddenly as it had come. He was alone. He had no-one. The Count would surely alienate him if he found out, and Ingrid would take even greater pleasure in bullying him … Ingrid had been no match for Vlad the vampire but for Vlad the breather …
Yet common sense told him they must be told. The Count could hardly fail to notice if his favourite child suddenly started showing signs of even less vampiric behaviour than normal.
Sighing, he knocked on the door of his father's room.
The Count irritably poked his head around the door.
'What is it?' he looked at Vlad, noticing the Garside uniform. 'I'm sorry, young man, but you appear to have arrived at the wrong part of the school – not to mention three hours early. School doesn't start until nine.'
Vlad grinned. The Count had a habit of wind-ups like this. 'Dad, I live here, remember? I'm your son.'
The Count frowned. 'I don't have a son. I do have a daughter though, and she is a terrible pain in the neck.'
Vlad's smile faded. 'OK, Dad, joke over. I'm your son and I would like to come in and get ready for school now! Even if it does start in three hours.'
The Count glared. 'You're even more of an oddball than my servant, and I thought he was an abomination of nature. I am sorry, but you cannot come in.'
'Dad! Please, it's me, Vlad!'
'What's all this commotion about?'
Ingrid had appeared at the door. Vlad relaxed a little. 'Oh, Ingrid, am I glad to see you.'
Ingrid looked back at him in disdain. 'Just who are you? And why do you know my name? I've never seen you in my life.'
'For once, daughter, I agree. This young man appears to be under the impression that he is my son.'
'But Dad, Ingrid … please …'
'Oh, stay away from me, boy! Don't come near again!' exploded the Count.
Ingrid looked indignant. 'What about me? I don't want that freak hanging around me either.'
Vlad felt tears pricking the back of his eyes, as the Count heaved a sigh of annoyance. 'Yes, I suppose you'd better stay away from her as well. Good day!' And with that, he slammed the heavy wooden door.