SENSE OF BLOOD
by Gerri Leen
It begins. The fever rises inside of you, burning you up with a fire that tortures, but does not destroy. You are hungry because you have gone too long without feeding, focused only on finding him.
You search the shadows. He is not anywhere near; he is never close, even if you can feel him in your mind, in your heart, in your soul--or whatever is left of it. Where is he? You wait, tasting the darkness, and then you smile in victory as you sense his presence--there.
There is nowhere to go. Nowhere to run. He knows that, and yet he cannot make himself stop and just wait for her. So he runs and he tries to hide in plain sight, blending in with the humans, stealing blood in ways that do not involve the ripping of throats.
He sniffs the air, gets no sense of her, but knows she is out there again, waiting for him. He turns and goes the other way. He's not anxious to run into her. She terrifies him. Her hunger is so deep, so dark. She is his kind, yet the very thought of touching her makes him feel ill. Her beauty is a drug that he nearly drowned in. He cannot risk that oblivion again.
He is nearby. You can feel it, can feel him. Why doesn't he come to you? His rejection makes you angry--and hungrier than before. You take a break from the search, send out a call; a nearby human answers it. "Yes," you purr to his mind, to his most deeply held fantasies. "Come to me." He does. It is the last thing he will ever do.
He feels it when she kills. He always does. This time she is angry enough to tear her victim apart. She is thinking of him while she does it. Desire and rage, boiling and intertwined. He is afraid of her; he is more afraid of himself. Because he wants her, because he wants to go to her.
Because he is afraid that if he goes to her, he will become just like her.
He walks a little faster. Pulls his coat around him, it brings only imagined comfort; he does not feel the cold. Her laughter rings in his brain, echoes for too long. He leans into the wind, praying for rain to wash him clean. Or he would pray, if he thought there was a God left who would listen to him. But he is afraid that nothing will hear him. Nothing but her, if he is not careful. And maybe even if he is.
It is easier to think now. The human's blood rushes through your body. You throw your head back and savor the power. Nothing else can give this surge of energy, of excitement. Although the thought of touching the one you seek comes close.
You sense him again, farther away this time. He tries to put distance between you, but there is no way he can hide from you completely for he is made from you: your blood courses in his veins. He can no more hide from you than a wave can hide from the ocean. But you know he will try.
She is stronger. He feels a thrill of fear and fights the urge to run. He must maintain some composure. She wants him to be afraid. She wants him to run. He knows that if he gives in to his terror, he will revert to relying on his instincts. And his instincts will almost certainly take him to her. For his blood was hers, and even now he can feel it calling out to return to its source. But he fights the urge and keeps walking deeper into the city. He will hide himself among the prey.
He laughs at the thought. He is like a lion hiding itself among the wildebeest. Expecting his mate not to spot him. Cowering as the angry lioness, teeth bared, claws ready to scratch and kill, approaches. He pictures her this way. It is not difficult. He carries her image with him forever. Her image after the kill. After she killed him. No, not after him. After she killed his bride.
You scowl as you remember how you made this boy that ran away from you and refuses to come back. He has no right to elude you, to seek to turn from the gift you offered. He is changed now. He is eternal. He should love you. He wants to love you; you can feel that, have felt that ever since you killed him. And yet he runs. Because of her.
He is overwhelmed with his memories. Turns into an alley and crouches beside a dumpster as he begins to tremble. He has no trouble recalling the moment. It was a time etched in sunlight that turned dim with blood. She was there. Not the creature he runs from, but the other one, the good one--Daniella, his first and only love. He can smell the coppery tang of her blood flowing down her throat, feel the sticky warmth of it as it ruined her lace veil and created a field of red poppies on her lily-white dress. They only sought a moment away from the happy crowd, a minute to enjoy touching each other. The empty hallway was the perfect place. The music from the reception faded as he kissed his new wife.
She was beautiful, the woman your boy still worships in his memories. Glowing with love even in the shadowed alcove where she and her groom took refuge. It was their passion that drew you to them, the scent of arousal, the thump-thump-thump of healthy hearts beating faster with love. You saw her and wanted to destroy. You saw him and wanted to possess.
The creature came out of nowhere, fangs and ripping nails turning Daniella into something of blood and pain. He tried to stop her, but she knocked him away as if he was nothing more than a child. He rushed her again, and she clubbed him into the wall, leaving him to slide down it stunned. He could only watch as she drank from his bride, drank most of Daniella's life away and then let her drop to the floor. He crawled to her, could do nothing as the last of her blood drained away on the dress she had worn with such pride, such delight.
He forced himself to stand, a roar of pain on his lips but silenced all too quickly by the creature's teeth in his throat. The pain was worse than anything he had ever imagined. He felt sick, began to heave up champagne and cake. She held him away from her as he vomited away his life--the life he should have shared with Daniella. The heaves gave way to darkness, as his heart tried to move blood that was no longer in his body. She ripped open the vein in her own neck and pulled him to the wound.
He was stubborn, this boy of yours. Maybe you should have paid attention that day, should have let him die instead of giving him the gift he refused to take. You have made many over the years, but none have resisted you as this one did. It was exciting. It still is.
He didn't want to drink. He remembers that very clearly. He did not want to drink. But he did, finally. Slurped greedily as the creature's blood, and his wife's, poured into him. He felt strength grow in him. Felt something else form, too: a bond with the monster that was giving birth to him. His blood pulsed in time with her own. She laughed and pulled him away from the people who had been his family and friends, until she stopped in an alley five blocks from the club, where they had fevered sex over and over. The last time, as he reached out to take her again, trying to slake an unbearable thirst, his mind suddenly flashed to Daniella's body. He saw her, white and crimson as she lay in the cold hall. It made the thirst recede; it made his lust die. As his monstrous new lover reached out for him, he pushed her away and ran. He has been running ever since.
You growl in resigned fury. He has disappeared again. For the moment, he is out of your reach. His mind calls to you, but the human throng he has surrounded himself with is too distracting. You cannot find him, have no idea which direction he has gone. You will seek him all night then hide again when the sun comes out to threaten you. At the next dark, you both will resume this game, the cat-and-mouse hunt that this boy insists on. You are almost glad he ran. The challenge of finding him entertains you. He is the first of your children to reject you, the only one to really hold your interest. He gives your life purpose. And that is the one thing you thought you would never have again.
In a basement storeroom, safe from the rising sun, he attempts to sleep. Tries to purge from his mind the picture of torn flesh and blood on white lace. He succeeds, only to have another image overwhelm him: one of wine-red lips and soft, cold skin trembling under his hands. He curls up and gives in to the image of the lover who chases him, the killer who will never let him go. He feels her answering laughter from far away--from wherever she has bedded down to wait out the daylight--as she, too, remembers the way their bodies joined. He moans in agony...and in pleasure. In the evening, he will run from her. But as morning breaks in bright colors he can no longer bear to look at, he surrenders.
Come evening, he will be strong again. But for now, he drowns.
Gerri Leen has fiction appearing in the Desolate Places and Sails & Sorcery anthologies, Renard's Menagerie, Fusion Fragment, and GlassFire, and stories accepted by the Triangulation: Taking Flight anthology, the Sub-Atomic Rock & Roll anthology, the Ruins Metropolis anthology, and others. A complete list of her published and accepted works is available at her website: http://www.gerrileen.com.
What advice do you have for other fantasy writers?
Keep trying new things, working to get better. You can read all the
writing books you want--and some of them are great--but the only way to improve is to keep doing it. Read lots of fantasy so you know what's out there and make sure you have some first readers who can tell you if things work and find all those pesky typos and grammar issues. And most importantly, keep your work circulating. Just because one editor doesn't find it to their taste doesn't mean another won't. Stories don't sell if they're only sitting on your hard drive--keep them out there.