Chapter 1

Chopping wood in a stiff wind is one of the physical pleasures I still enjoy, living out here alone, several mountains and many miles from Anchorage. I took a short break and was marveling at the graceful streaks of light coming down through the churning gray clouds of Alaska's sky when I sensed her. I immediately knew her direction, north by northeast, and gazed deeply into that area. I could not see her but knew she was there and she knew I was around, too. She was hunting and hungry.

I do not fear them, these loose vampires of the north that wander alone in those vast empty reaches of the upper latitudes, I never have, not since I was a child and learned about them from my father. They are pitiful creatures to me. Subsisting and thriving on human blood to live out their endless, solitary lives. I have encountered them several times, up here on my wooded bluff where I live and they're always, always hungry.

She was coming for me, now, I could feel her movement.

I kept chopping my wood, stacking it up in those long neat rows I make, when she broke through the underbrush beneath the tall pines, stepping out into the broad grassy meadow where my house stands. This one wasn't afraid of the sun. She had no need to be. It was just sunlight and didn't harm any of them. Vampires just don't like the sun, usually, that's why they prefer the north. Longer nights, I suppose, at certain times of the year, then they'll migrate south.

I stared at her for a moment and smiled.

"Welcome!" I called out, and went back to chopping. She would try to attack me, now, but my guard was up.

I could feel her struggling. She couldn't move in her lightning fast way as they do on the attack and I could feel and hear her frustration. She then tried walking to me, as I put down my axe in a gesture of non-violence. She found that she could approach me, now, in this slow, humanistic way.

I stepped away from the chopping block and axe and put my hands in my back pockets. Standing there I took a good look at her. She was young, still, and without the wild look they get in their eyes when they're older. I've always assumed it's from spending too much time alone. They can get a little crazy and you've got to 'shoo' them away, when you can. At least I do. When that happens, they usually are pretty close to burrowing into the earth and never returning. I'm pretty sure that they die like that and all the more reason to pity them.

"Would you like to come in?" I asked, nodding my head to the house. The sullen creature simply bored her will into me, trying to control my mind, but, it didn't work. Not on me. She was staring as if I had done her some great indignity and she wanted her revenge. In truth, reading her thoughts, I knew she was simply trying to figure out what I was and why she couldn't attack or exact her will over me. I didn't expect a reply but it was then I realized, she didn't speak English, so I spoke in her native tongue. This one was a Russian. She must have walked across the ice some winters ago.

"There's a couple of horses out front if you're hungry," I told her. I knew she was hungry as I could see her hands trembling with need but I also knew horse blood was revolting to her kind. I repeated the offer again in her language. She sneered at me. Only if she was desperate enough would she feed from the horses and I thought she would when she finally figured out she would not be getting anything from me. It wouldn't hurt the horses. Contrary to popular belief, you can't get infected and become a vampire if bitten, nor do they usually kill their victims. They only drink a pint or two at a time. Those other idea's are all Hollywood.

I turned on my heel and went in through the back, leaving the kitchen door open. She had followed the direction I had taken, a few steps, but was still confused. I was human yet she couldn't have me or attack as was normal for her. 'What is going on?' I heard her thoughts.

I took a mug down from the mahogany kitchen cupboard and scooped some coco into it from the counters jar in the shape of a pirates head. I took the coffee maker I use to heat water in and pored steaming water into the mug then stirred it with a spoon. The aroma smelled delicious. The air was pretty cool outside and I had been in the wind most of the morning. The warm chocolate would hit the spot.

I stared at the poor creature, through the window over the sink, as she cautiously and restricted, stepped towards the kitchen door. Her shredded clothes consisting of a dress and a long Russian coat that were terribly torn from wandering in the forest for who knew how long. Pieces of cloth flowed out in the wind like strands of dark torn ribbons. Her once, light brown hair was long and thick with forest filth but blew wildly about her face and torso giving her a mystical look. She might have been a natural beautiful, once, but when the vampire gene had kicked in, usually in their late teens or early twenties, all thought of hygiene and making oneself comely deserts these young ones. Still, I could appreciate what was left; tall, thin, model-ish. Fixed up, I could see my way to liking her. I reached into her mind once more and found she had only recently made the change. Three years gone. That would make her, I went through her mind, only twenty-two years old. What a thing for a young woman to endure at that age, I thought to myself. What a terrible thing at any age.

She peeked in through the open door.

"I'm alone. You don't have to be afraid," I said in Russian.

"I'm not afraid of you, human," she replied, stepping into the kitchen. Her voice sounded dry as if she needed water. It was her need for blood, I'm sure.

"Close the door, please," I asked. "It's cold outside."

"I wouldn't know." Of course she wouldn't. Not anymore. Vampires don't feel heat or cold like we do. I think they sense it, in fact I know they do, but it doesn't bother them.

"I understand, but, close the door just the same, please."

She stared at me, curious but angry in her hunger.

"What are you?" she asked. "I--I can't--have you!"

I stared right back at her and took a sip of my coco. She didn't move.

"The door?"

She closed it rather loudly with the flip of a finger. Temper, temper!

"Come into the living room, we can talk there," I said, walking away.

"I need your blood."

"There's still the horses," I reminded.

"I'd rather suck a moose dry."

That made me laugh as I fell into one of the overstuffed sofas in the stone and wood living room. I put my head back and looked up at the high ceiling of native pine till she entered the spacious room.

She was following, slowly, looking curiously around the rooms as if she'd never seen the inside of an American home. I thought she had, thinking back to her mind, but, probably not one this big. I guessed she was merely curious about mine. I didn't want to intrude more than I had to. Vampires have such boring, dark brains, anyway. All they think about is blood. But she was still a person so I kept my eaves-dropping to a minimum. However, I did know her name.

"Sit down, Anita."

Her face snapped in my direction.

"How do you know my name?"

"I guessed," I said. I don't like telling these undead creatures anymore about myself than is necessary. They might get an advantage over you in someway, if they can. They're not stupid and always scheming.

Her eyes went to slits. "Humans can't read thoughts," she spat. "Only we can ... and only--a few." She looked very angry and confused. "What are you?" Anita asked, again.

I put my cup on the glass coffee table in front of me and put my feet up. I looked into her sharp gray eyes.

"Please sit down. I'll tell you everything I know." I was lying.

She looked around the room and then walked to the sofa on the far side of me and the glass coffee table. She sat without resting her back on the sofa, feet under her so she could get up fast, if she had to, still suspicious.

"The truth is, I don't know why I am this way. I seem to have a lot of vampire abilities but I'm completely human and I don't drink blood." That was about all I wanted to say to her, even though she was beginning to grow on me in these few moments we'd had together. She wasn't exactly hard to look at, especially now that her hair had quit flying all over. What I really wanted to do was wash it.

I noticed she was shaking worse than ever. She needed her food.

"How can that be?"

"My father thought I was the next evolutionary process. He thought vampires were a failure of nature."

She sort of snarled at those words. None of them ever liked hearing that...

"You're old for a human but you look like you're in your twenties."

"Yes," I agreed.

"How old?"

"Old enough to have learned to control myself, and--your kind. You can't hurt me, Anita, or feed on me. That won't be allowed."

"I'm hungry. I'm starving."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"Just a little bit of blood."

"And then what? You'll still be hungry. If it'll help, you can have your speed back and go to the horses. They've been through it before."

She lifted her upper lip and hissed at me. I released her speed and she felt it. She instantly tried to attack me but I froze her movement and she fell flat on her face, next to me, and bounced to the floor like a rag doll. I knew she would try and was prepared for it. I let her move again and she scrambled away from me cursing in Russian. I picked up my mug and slowly blinked my eyes as if shocked.

"Go," I told her, nodding to the horses, again, and took another sip of my coco.

She briefly glared at me. Then in a blur of movement she was out the front door and I heard a slight disturbance from the horses. Simply from her sudden appearance, I'm sure. Ten minutes later, she was back. She slowly closed the door and sat across from me again, calmed and with the edges of her mouth turned down, wet with redness. Yes, the blood.

"They taste like grass."

"Sweet, though, huh?"

She looked up at me with disgust on her face.

I laughed.

"Beggars can't be choosers," I told her.

"What?"

"It's an old saying. If you're begging for something, you can't choose what someone gives you."

"I'm not begging," she protested, indignant.

I smiled. I didn't think I explained it that well. Must have been the translation. I said, "I've been thinking--you're welcome to stay here, Anita. It would probably be more fun than wandering about in the woods." I could always use a little company. Most people bored me but vampires were sometimes entertaining, if they were willing to open up and think of something else besides blood.

She was looking around the living room. I suppose there were many things she didn't understand like all the electronics in the entertainment center, the bar with all the mixing machines, etc. I was sure she knew what a TV was and that could be a source of fascination for her. I also thought she might want to play some video games too, once I calmed her down and got a bit of the wilderness out of her. If, she wanted to stay.

I watched her reaction, for a moment, to my offer. She was looking around the big room, ceiling, and all the softness and warmth of the furniture, the beautiful paintings on the walls and I knew Anita was impressed.

"Think about it." I stood. "I've got a lot of things I'd like to show you, if you can spare the time. It is a comfortable place," I told her. Then I left the room but kept open a channel to her thoughts. She was trying to decide. 'This is nicer, ' she was thinking, 'than the forest. It's so boring out there and there's never anyone to talk to. But he's mean. He reminds me of my Uncle Frederick. Always wanting everyone to do things his way.'

She was young. I'd have to go gently if I was going to be her friend and teach her things. She was, in the long run, just a naive little back woods girl from Siberia. A vampire, yes, but still inexperienced in life.

The first thing I asked her to do was bathe. She smelled like rotting leaves and her hair stank like a dog. She was in the bathroom for a long time. Only once, no, twice did I check on her, telepathically, to see what she was up to. She was simply enjoying the water and the bubbles, the shampoos and all the fragrances I kept stocked in there. She was a girl, after all.

I had her throw me her clothing out the guest bedroom door at first and took them down to wash away the forest. They cleaned up but fell apart, in places, too. Never the less, I gave them back to her and a short time later, she came downstairs to the kitchen where I was making dinner. She looked awful, still, but I didn't say it. Instead, I complemented her. No. She didn't smile but at the very least, she wasn't offended. I had her chop some vegetables, to keep her busy.

"I know you don't need to eat human food like you used to, but, would you like to try?" It's true, Vampires don't need to eat food, but sometimes they do, for novelty, or remembrance, or for some ulterior motive, still, they can eat.

"What are you making?"

"I was thinking of a stew!"

"Do you have cabbage?"

I wondered what she was thinking.

"Yes. Can you cook?"

"Of course I can."

"Would you like to make me a Russian meal or try something else?"

"I could, if you think you would like it."

"I'd be honored, Anita." She actually smiled and it was a beautiful smile. Her teeth were white and even, and the fangs had retreated back into her gums, as they did when they didn't want them to show, but still, she was very beautiful.

I let her take over the kitchen and as she cooked, I stared and asked her about family, her home, the old one in Russia, and how she got to America. It was pretty much as I had suspected and I also asked if she wanted to call her mother. I had sensed, earlier, she missed her. I learned they had phone service in the village she was from. Her family was better off than most in Siberia.

She actually started to cry, though, at my asking. I'd never in all my four thousand plus years seen a vampire cry before. Very gently, I touched her shoulder.

"They don't know what happened to you, do they?"

She sniffled and stopping preparing things as she stood straight armed, leaning against the kitchen island, weeping.

"Anita?"

She looked up, her eyes a mess, her mouth contorted, her chin wrinkled, and shook her head, 'No.'

She came to me and wanted an embrace and I embraced her, firmly. She cried for a long time, her legs failing as I held her up and against the counter. It felt good to hold someone, even a vampire as innocent and skinny as this young girl was, she was still a woman that didn't ask for this thing to happen to her. It was no one's fault. It was just life, just as my life was vastly different from others, and life always seemed to be cruel.

Finally, I spoke softly to her, reassured her and told her she would feel better after we called. First though, she wanted to make the dinner and when that was done, she would serve it, then call. So I wasn't surprised when she said, "I want to call home, now," she said with some definity. It was almost an order. I got up and showed her the phone and helped her connect, then left her alone, completely.

I ate the food she had prepared and it was quite good, but it was not as fun as I had hoped. I longed for her company. I tried to touch her mind, to see how she was feeling and I couldn't sense anything. I suddenly realized the house was very quiet. I immediately stood up and rushed to the other room. I saw the phone in the living room had been hung up. She was gone and the front door was open. I went out front and ran into the meadow and sensed her a long way off. She was so sad and had not spoken to anyone on the phone. She was too ashamed, I thought, about what had happened to her.

I called to her thoughts and she stopped walking.

"Come back Anita. We can get through this," I told her. "It's hard for you now, I know, but we can work through it. Don't go," I pleaded. I don't know why, but I wanted her there.

Sobbing, she whispered over and over to herself...

"I killed them ... I killed them..."

Shocked, I hesitated but pleaded, again. She just kept walking away and soon, Anita was out of range. I couldn't sense her mind anymore, but new her direction.

Life is so very cruel to them.

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Story tagged with:
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