Please read Part Two here.
I stare into the black water, thick with mud and sludge. The night is cold, wind whipping in icy gales. People think Louisiana winters are mild, but here in New Orleans we get the worst of it, boxed in by the drafts of Lake Pontchartrain and the river.
It has been five years since I left Shreveport. I only laugh when I think of myself back then, silly, strong willed, flippant. How stupid I was, to create a fiasco with Eric Northman. I’d succeeded in nothing, only embarrassing myself by trying to attain the unattainable. I was a laughingstock, known all over Shreveport, not as a mere fangbanger, but as something worse. An impostor. A pathetic loser. Shunned and ostracized from both the vampires and the humans.
All of this means nothing now.
My stomach clenches in nausea as I think of the doctor’s voice, deep, slow and methodical. His sympathy was surely feigned. He did this every day, it was part of his regular work week, a routine.
“Mina I am afraid you have breast cancer.”
I remember the examination room, the distance of the doctor’s face like a tiny oval in the white wall. I remember the terrible shudder that went through my body. Tears welled in my eyes and I fiercely scrubbed them away.
It had happened. This, the same disease that had taken my mother and my grandmother and who knows how many other females in my blood line, had now come to claim me. My choices, the doctor informed me, included a complete mastectomy followed by treatments of chemotherapy, countless medications and a rehabilitation process. “This is not an automatic death sentence,” he assured me.
Choices? He has the audacity to call them choices? Little did he know. I’d not undergo the knife, nor would I endure those dreaded treatments. I am not some guinea pig, subject to their silly games! I have witnessed the worst of it; my mother, wasting away on her death bed, head bald, cheeks sunken, nostrils bleeding. I have never been able to figure out, just what sort of ‘cure’ makes one go bald?
After my mother’s death I left Shreveport. There was no reason to stay. Oh, sure, I could have continued to petition Eric, but what good would it do? Northman would not budge. Besides, I no longer had the strength nor the inclination.
I then found myself with nothing. No family, no job, no money. I was not even speaking to my best friend Lucy. Well, can you blame me? It was I, not she who was supposed to be transformed that night. But no! The smug Eric Northman had foiled my plan. Then, to add insult to injury, Pam decided to take a bite out of Lucy and bring her into the fold. Oh the sick irony of it! It was my pride as much as my sorrow that forced me to leave Shreveport.
My life in New Orleans had been sporadic at best. A barrage of makeshift single rooms, community toilets and lumpy mattresses, none of which I would ever call ‘home’. I took one meaningless job after another. The visions of blood and death and bald cadavers haunted me. My anger overwhelmed me. I could not eat or sleep. In my desperation I even saw a psychologist who diagnosed me with ‘depression’. Oh yes, that was genius! It did not take a psychological evaluation to know I was depressed!
My disease was thought to have a chemical cure. I devoured prescriptions of Lexapro, Zoloft and Xanax. I then graduated to Depakote and Oxycodone, enough drugs to anesthetize a small horse. But it meant nothing. A mere doling out of chemicals which served to make rich pharmaceutical companies richer and turn humans into drug dependent zombies.
All I needed was a good excuse. I have known for a very long time I do not belong in this world.
The river is deep and churning. Many a body has gone missing here. I wonder if anyone would even come looking for me. I doubt it.
I feel in the pockets of my trench coat for the rocks I have packed in. Large and smooth, heavy as boulders. I cannot swim but I am told the human body will automatically float to the surface. I have taken precaution against this. The rocks will sink me. Down, down to the depths of the muddy Mississippi. An elegant and much desired exit. I will sleep with fish.
I rise to my feet, stand on the bridge where patches of ice have formed. My mind is calm, blank as the slate sediment. One foot, then another slips off and I land on my back with a plop in the water.
Like a frigid blanket the waves encompass me. Hypothermia will soon set in. How fortunate for me that the season is winter! I sink quickly, boulders weighing and pulling me, down, down to the river’s ebony depths. Cold fades to numbness and then to nothingness.
* * * * *
“Blood pressure ninety over seventy. She’s slowly coming around.” I hear the voices but cannot recognize the blur of my surroundings. My body aches. Crisp cotton sheets cover me. I try to move but my legs are lead. Slowly my vision clears and I begin to see the outlines of their heads. One tube has been inserted down my throat, nearly gagging me. Another pricks at my arm, a needle attached to a plastic bag of liquid. A nurse moves to further inject me, rubber gloves sliding against my skin.
“Welcome back to the world of the living Mina.” The nurse smiles. “For a while we thought we might lose you. You are a lucky woman, first spotted by the riverboat captain, revived by paramedics, and now your blood pressure fully on the rise. You had a bit of trouble breathing and you needed potassium, but I predict you will be fine.”
“I’ll go inform Doctor Bombay!” another nurse calls excitedly. “Oh this is the best news we’ve had all day.”
Best news they’ve had all day? If I were not so weak I’d spit in her eye. Another plan foiled! Was I doomed to walk this earth, stuck in my diseased body, not even a whole human? How dare they? I wanted OUT. Damn the river boat captain, damn the paramedics. Damn the hospital.
The nurse removes my throat tube. I sink back to a twilight sleep, awakened sporadically by vague thermometers and the squeak of blips on a monitor. I am, I suppose, still alive. I do not know how many hours have passed when I hear the next conversation.
“The patient is resting, doctor. Her body has undergone quite a trauma. Maybe you had better – leave this interrogation for another time?”
“This will only take a minute, I assure you. I’ll do nothing to jeopardize her recovery. The questions, I’m afraid, cannot wait.”
“Very well then.”
I hear the plodding footsteps as the doctor enters the room. Probably here to discuss my treatment options. Why oh why can’t they let me die in peace??
I do not look but listen as he closes the door behind him. He pulls up a chair, sits beside me and shines a beaming light into my closed eyes. Why do they always shine a beaming light into your eyes? What, exactly do they hope to find? Dilated pupils? Crazy ocular activity? Signs of my own insanity? I am sure they would find it all. I wish they would just leave me alone!
“Mina,” he says. I am starting to hate my own name.
“Mina, you must open your eyes.”
Very well. Like peeled lemons I raise my lids. “You should have let me die,” I moan. Even my words are an effort.
“Oh no. That would be too easy.” There is a mockery in his voice. I widen my eyes. Now fully awake I see him. The outline of his head, the blond hair, the ice blue eyes. He wears green hospital scrubs, sleeves rolled above his elbows.
“What are YOU doing here?” I try to shout but my voice is weak.
“I am Doctor Northman. I have been assigned to your case for the purpose of a special interrogation. My questions will be brief.”
“What the fuck, Eric! Is this supposed to be some kind of joke?”
“Shhh, calm yourself.” He lays a hand across my forehead. “None of this will work if you become overexcited.”
“What the fuck!” I repeat. “You’re no doctor. How’d you get in here? Where’d you get those scrubs?”
He smiles. “Mina, I am twelve hundred years old. Do you think it is so very difficult for me to masquerade as one of the medical profession?”
I stare at him. He has succeeded one more time in making of fool of me.
“What do you want?”
He shuts off the light beam and pulls his chair closer.
“You once asked me for the dark gift.”
I nod. It seems a century ago when I asked it. Too much has happened since then. I have become a cynic, the worst kind of cynic, bitter and beaten. I would not even make a good vampire. Eternal life no longer interests me.
“If you still want it, I can offer it to you.”
“Now? Now you come to me? Northman, your timing is terrible. I am attempting to get OUT of this world, not stay here eternally! I will ask you — not to turn me but to kill me!”
“I won’t do that.”
“It would be immoral.”
I scoff. Morality! Coming from him that is rich. Since when does the great and powerful Eric care a lick about morality? I study him. There is more to this offer than meets the eye. He is up to something. This is one vampire who never lifts a finger unless it is to his own benefit.
I peer at him, narrowing my eyes. “What’s the real story Eric? Out with it.”
He sighs. “If you must know, I am bored.”
“Yes, bored. You see, I have released Pam from her bondage to me. She is quite fond of her protégé Lucy. Your friend I believe?”
“Lucy is no friend of mine!”
“Be that as it may. The two are Siamese twins, joined at the hip, a youngling and maker, no separating them. Pam no longer needs me and I no longer need her. “
“What about your Sheriff-dom? Surely that should keep you busy.”
“I have given my office to Pam. She will do a much better job with it. Shreveport is tedious. I am leaving to travel the world. For the first time in one hundred years I am free, no obligations, no dependents, and it occurs to me I would like a companion.”
“Because you are strong willed. You have proven yourself. It is only a human who attempts to take their own life that is worthy of the dark realm. I once told you I would never turn a mortal without good reason. I now have good reason.”
I stare at him. Five years ago I would have been elated, but now he only angers me.
“Make your decision quickly.” He stands, towering over me. He glances out the window. The wall clock reads 2AM. “I’ve not much time. There are only a few hours until sunrise and I am leaving tonight.” He crouches down, presses his cheek close to mine.
“You once told me you’d stop at nothing,” he whispers, breath hot on my face. “Now prove it. Or are you too much of a coward?”
Prove it? Coward? He has challenged me! Oh the unstoppable arrogance of him!
“Go ahead then!” I hiss. “Do it! Turn me into a monster. Make me one of your kind and I will destroy this miserable world, drain bodies one by one, leave a wasteland of corpses and endless death behind me! I will not give a damn about any of them!”
“That’s the spirit.” He smiles and lifts the tubes from my arm. He bares his fangs and bends down to bite my neck.
The feeling at first is not unlike drowning. I could just as well be in the murky Mississippi, sinking under the sheets of cold gray water. I see nothing but vague darkness. But then. I feel his open bloody wrist pressed to my mouth. The blood! It does not taste like blood but like something marvelous, something delicious. A sweet liquid. Chocolate? Tiramisu and hazelnut. Oh! Leave it to Northman to hold the sweetest of temptations! My teeth, now canine fangs gnaw his flesh. I cannot stop myself and I drink, drink, drink, filling my entire body, filling every inch of my bloodstream.
“That is enough!” He pulls his wrist away. I am satiated, my body warm, blood pulsing through me although I can no longer feel a heartbeat.
The nurses are knocking on the door. “Doctor? Doctor Northman? Is everything alright?”
“We must depart,” he says. He lays a hand on my shoulder. In the blink of an eye we fade from the room, leaving my bed empty, tubes and circuits lying in a tangled mass of sheets.
Within seconds we are flying through the night sky. The air is crystalline fresh, vast masses of fluffy clouds below us.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“Lapland is nice this time of year,” he says. “Very few hours of daylight with winter set in. We could make it our home. For now.” He glances at me, gives a hint of a smile, wind whipping his hair.
I cling to his back, dig my nails to his flesh. Lapland. Our home? Had he said “Our home’? Ours. The idea is enticing, enthralling, almost surreal.
In the distance I see a glittering of stars. They spill in muted colors like a magnificent ribbon, a night rainbow of red, green and purple. “The Aurora Borealis,” Eric says. “It is — but one small vision of the many you will now behold.”
I stare silently. Its beauty stuns me, colors richer than any I have seen before. The twinkling Northern Lights beckon as we ride the black sky, delving deeper and deeper into its velvet abyss.
In this instant I feel no sorrow, no regret, no anger, no link to the past nor to the future.
I am what I am.