A Change of SeasonsbyAlysdaire©
Chapter 1: Awareness
Karyn couldn't believe that the professor had gone over again. It seemed he never finished on time. Lately she just didn't like the walk back to her dorm. It was midway through her first semester and she'd been told all the stories about what happened to unescorted girls after dark on campus. It was getting entirely too dark too fast at night.
Her khakis, sweater, and fleece jacket covered a form, that caused more than a few missed notes in her classes, though she was unaware of this. Her male classmates saw a body that was decidedly feminine without being voluptuous. She was what most would call petite, and some would call sexy. She thought herself plain.
Her sparkling blue eyes scanned the grey overcast skies, and the early autumn wind tossed her almost blonde hair about her head like the branches of the leafless trees around the campus. The smell of snow still threatening, even this early in the season. The first clawing winds of a promised winter were trying to tear through her sweater and jacket. Icy talons of air slipping where proper fingers dare not. Soon, she thought to herself, winter, spring, then summer. Sunlight... these cloud-cast skies will be gone soon. I can't say that I'll miss them ... These ideas rambled around in her head.
She was distracted enough with these musings that she almost didn't see him. He stood off in the shadows, tucked in under the boughs of a hemlock. Just beneath the last tendrils of sunlight. She'd occaisionally studied under that tree in warmer weather, and knew that the lowest branches were nearly six and a half feet off the ground. He stood just under them, not touching, but within a few inches of them. Dressed in mostly black, a long trench coat, black shoes or boots, even the glasses he wore were jet black. His shirt though, that was different; deep blood red, astonishing it should even be discernable in the lavender light that preceded night. He seemed, not like he was hiding in the shadows but, rather like the shadows were a part of him. He was so still, almost invisible if you didn't stare into the darkness he had cloaked himself in. She looked again. Boots, he definitely wore boots, with the trousers tucked in. Trousers? They're called pants Karyn, her insecurities whispered in her head.
He was watching her. She looked at his face. Stared at it and, even though she couldn't see through the lenses of his glasses, felt her eyes lock with his. The wind picked up and raked chilling fingers down her back. She reached out for the open flaps of her jacket and pulled them tighter together to keep the cold at bay.
Two people shouting at each other from the quad behind her jarred her attention away from his unseen stare. She turned to see what was happening. Nothing. Two friends, one yelling to the other about that night's party. She turned back up the hill, thinking to hurry out of the wind back to her room. But first she looked back into the shadows. He was gone.
She didn't know why but something inside her felt disappointed, almost... cheated. Another gust hit her and she finally moved back towards the doors of her dorm. As her foot touched the first step, she heard a voice. A cultured British accent spoke in her ear, "I am what you have always desired. You will learn this."
She turned, almost dropping books and papers. Her pen slipped out of her books and skittered onto an empty sidewalk. No one was there. No one was anywhere, and certainly no one was close enough to have spoken those words into her ear. She knelt down and picked up her pen. Still kneeling she then, after looking up and down the walk, gaurdedly stood, turned and went up the stairs to her dorm's entrance. As her peripheral view of the shaded area was cut off, she thought that she might have seen something move there. Don't be stupid she chided herself, and walked into the lobby of her hall.
Days went by. The weather got worse then better then deteriorated again. She wished she would have gone to college in the south. She would think from time to time, Oh well, the Northeast has its perks, can't recall any just now, but it seems to be alright. Tests were taken; some aced, some could have been better. Till recently, most nights were spent out. Why not? You only live once. Why not enjoy the night if the day had to be spent laboring to remember things I'll never need to know again. This was what she told herself.
She thought about a lot of things. More and more her thoughts came back to that figure she had seen in the shadows. At least she thought that she had seen him. Maybe... maybe I was just too tired from the night before. That must be it. Maybe I should just forget about the whole scene. I'm obsessing about a dream... nightmare. Why nightmare? Where'd that thought come from? But it felt real. No, that's not right. It felt too real. It's been a week, drop it. Time and again she stumbled over the same litany in her mind, chasing it around in her head for days. It was even cutting into her studying.
A knock on her door jarred her morning studying, or at least what passed for studying lately. She got up from the open book and cold coffee that scented her desk with the almost burnt smell of too strong coffee and opened the door. There was Cheri. She'd taken to watching out for Karyn ever since a "misunderstanding" at a frat party at the beginning of the semester had made them instant friends. Cheri used to always say, "Karyn is a sweet girl but she's too damn innocent for college." And now, Cheri had that look on her face, the one that said she was worried about her again
Cheri's soft voice entered the room with her, "Hi there. Where've you been? We missed you the other day for lunch. Everytime I see you you seem to be more and more... well... elsewhere. What's up with you, girl?"
"Nothing." Karyn didn't even look up from where she fell back onto her bed.
Karyn heard the smile come across Cheri's face, "Great, then there's no reason for you not to come to the bar with us. You've been moping way to much. Come have fun."
"I'm perfectly fine. But I know how that works, if I say no, you're going to sit here and chatter till I cave in. Especially since then you'll think I'm really not fine. So how about I just save the time and say I'll go?" Karyn just sort of shook her head, amazed how she always let Cheri do this to her.
"Great! Meet us at Louie's. You'd better be there, or else we'll come get you." Cheri shook her little fist at Karyn in mock threat.
"I'll be there, don't worry." Karyn gently guided Cheri out of her room and went back to studying for a while.
It went like that the rest of the morning for Karyn. Friends would drop by and convince her to go out. It seemed to her that everyone was blowing this whole quiet phase out of proportion. With assurances that she was all right, she said that she would meet them at the bar that night. They agreed to meet there, and one or two friends asked again (half-heartedly) if she was okay. Patiently, she thought, she said... again... "I'm fine." They went their different directions towards their final classes of the day.
Later that afternoon (or was that earlier that night?) she got ready to go to the bar. She fixed her hair, threw on a nice pair of earrings and a choker necklace. A loose satin blouse, comfortable jeans and a pair of flats finished off her attire. It was nothing spectacular. That summed it up: the outfit, the bar, the college... hell, even the state for all she cared for it. Admit it girl, that's your life too... nothing spectacular. She forced these thoughts out of her mind and got into her car and drove to Louie's.
She didn't have to play this out as if everything was scripted out for her. She decided that tonight was going to be different. At least, she thought as her hand touched the firgid handle on Louie's front door, I can hope that it will be.
Fate didn't seem to want to cooperate with her. It was the same crowd of people doing the same things. That person getting drunk to forget, this one over here filling up on courage. Over there a young girl fights off the clumsy advances of a guy she doesn't want to be around. The same clouds of cigarette smoke wreathed the light above the pool table. Colognes, and perfumes fought a war with the smoke in her nose. Drink in her hand, she looked around again and realized that she was starting to feel pretty good and that even this was the same as always.
Something in her mind shifted then and she looked again. Things were the same, but, subtly shifted. She looked out and saw everything as she had before, but this time realized that these were just generalizations. She could go into a hundred, maybe a thousand, other bars tonight and see the same people. The faces would be different, maybe even the languages spoken. But the soul, that would be the same. She was just wondering what she would look like, what her soul would be when she heard that British voice again.
"And so she sees again."
She froze. Afraid to turn around. Afraid to make him -- she knew it had to be him -- vanish. Do I dare make him real? His touch lit upon her shoulder. It slid along her neck, letting his fingertips cup her chin and turn her face towards him. She let him draw her gaze around. Sounds of the bar vanished. She saw everyone still but heard only her own beating heart, her own gasped breath. His face filled her vision. The sights of the bar disappeared. The scent of Louie's vanished in that shocked intake of air and was replaced with a haunting aroma of something aged, like the scent of clothing in the attic of ghost's house.
She looked at him again. He still wore the glasses. She could see his hair; long, auburn, wavy. It framed his face perfectly, or so she thought. She was right, he was tall, but not as tall as she had expected. She thought he was attractive, but she couldn't say why. He drew down his glasses and pulled them off his face to reveal closed eyes. As he slipped his glasses into his coat's pocket he languidly opened his lids to reveal fey deep violet eyes.
"Your drink is empty. May I offer you another one?" The spell was broken and his words brought back the noise, colours and scents of the bar. She wanted to say yes, but somehow couldn't get her throat to work. Breathe girl! She weakly nodded her head. She sat down and expected him to go to the bar for her drink. Instead, he sat next to her and handed her the chilled bottle.
She looked at it, then the gloved hand that offered it to her, then at him. She hesitated. Then murmured, "Thank you." She put the bottle to her lips and drank, half fearing that it didn't exist or that it was her empty one. The cool drink slipped down her throat, and the man still sat next to her. He just looked at her and waited. Not rudely, he didn't stare. It was more a patience.
She looked around the bar again. The same people were still there. They still seemed like shadows of other souls doing the same things in other places. She looked back at the... the gentleman?... next to her. He was different. She was sure of it. If she went to another bar she could pick out everybody. Including herself, she sadly admitted. They would all be there, all except him, of this she was sure. Nothing about him was general. He was one uniqueness after another. All piled atop one another to create a soul and a being that could only exist alone. Everyone else in the bar was a shadow of someone from elsewhere.
Karyn finally found her voice, "I saw you the other day. Didn't I?"
"Yes, I believe you might have at that. I did, after all, see you." This he said with an eyebrow raised and a crooked grin on his mouth. She liked that. She believed that she could like a lot of things about this stranger.
She found herself falling into conversation with him easily, "Are you visiting someone here? I mean, I've never seen you on campus before or in the bar."
"You could say that I'm looking for someone. You probably know them, they just haven't arrived yet. It is my fondest hope that you'll see this person soon." This last part whispered as he leaned in to talk into her ear. His lips caressed her ear then gently kissed her just behind her ear. It chilled her, bringing goosebumps to her arm as well as a lazy smile to her lips.
She turned her head and looked at him. The noise from the jukebox was too loud for polite conversation. Rather than shout, she leaned into him to talk into his ear. She brushed aside his long hair. Lord isn't there anyhting about this guy that isn't gorgeous? She pressed her mouth close to his ear and breathed, "I doubt I know your friends. I've never seen anyone like you before." She nipped at his ear and then pulled back, looking at him. What am I doing? This isn't me... but why not... for tonight... he doesn't know me. She looked at his eyes then. They seemed amused. They asked, 'Is this what you want to do?' She stared back, hoping that she wasn't blushing. She felt like she was throwing herself at him. She found herself hoping that he would take her.
He didn't move. He just looked at her again... waiting for her. "I mean, you don't seem like someone from around here. The way you dress that is. Not that I don't like it." she couldn't stop herself. The words gushed out of her mouth, meaningless and empty. She was blushing now, sure that she had made a total fool of herself. She was still babbling useless sentences when he leaned forward and kissed her.
It felt as if something drained her. Like he caught her as she was trying to breath. She leaned into him. When he broke off the kiss (was that a year or two later?) she was calmed enough to stop her rambling.
"Tell me of yourself. I want to know everything." Those fey eyes set her instantly at ease. His voice was perfect. It was strong, and gentle. Patient and yearning. Knowing and inquisitive. It vibrated with many things that were not real opposites, yet seemed such at first glance. His request made the sights and sounds of the bar vanish again.
She found herself talking to him then. Of herself. Of what she wanted to be. Talking of things that she kept back from most people. How she never felt comfortable with guys. And how she never seemed to feel attractive enough to go out with anyone. She felt her life pouring from her body with her words. To be sure, he was a wonderful listener, but she wanted to be sure that his listening wasn't wasted on her. She wanted him to understand her. To know her completely. It was suddenly all that she ever wanted. Finally, she finished, her story told.
She pulled her face away from his shoulder and looked around. The noise, the lights, the people... they were missing. Hell, the bar was missing, she wasn't inside anymore. They were sitting outside, in the parking lot. She completely missed them walking outside. They used a corvette, black as Death's carriage horses, as their bench. Off by itself in the now empty lot, her car was parked nearly thirty yards away. She looked up at him.
The bar was closed. The only light coming from a buzzing street lamp near by. It lit his features beautifully. He glowed like a ghost. He bent down and kissed her again and again. His lips caressing from her lips along her jaw and then along the curve of her throat. Teeth gently... teasingly scratching near her collar. He pulled her body against his, effortlessly lifting her off the ground. He pulled back her head, laying her throat bare. He showered kisses and gentle teasing bites along her graceful neck. She was breathless. She felt herself melting into his hands.
Then he stopped. He held her, but not with the same urgency she thought she felt in him before. He was looking over her shoulder at the night. Looking past the light of the lamp. She pulled back and looked at his face then. "You are so beautiful," he said, " I almost wish I didn't love you."
"You say that as if you are leaving. Didn't you say you were meeting friends?" She was confused. She wanted him. She knew almost nothing about him, but she was sure that he was what would make her life complete. "Besides, we just met. You can't leave yet. I don't even know your name. And why are you so sure you love me. I'm flattered, but it doesn't work that way."
"I'm no longer so certain that I wish to meet the person who will be arriving." He paused and appeared to think for a while then. "As for my name, you may call me Sylvaine. And as for what I feel towards you is for me to judge." Again those mysterious violet eyes captured her, "You can not ever hope to understand the feelings I have or the knowledge of life I possess."
His voice sounded sad.
A rough edge of anger crept into her voice, "What do you mean that I can't understand? Tell me."
"You couldn't comprehend it even if I took the time to explain it." He sounded resigned. It was as if she had asked him to abolish gravity.
She was beginning to feel tired. More to the point, she was beginning to feel aggravated with him. No. Not him. Sylvaine. He has a name I can focus on now. How dare he be so arrogant as to think that I wouldn't understand. Her mind seethed. She snapped, her voice raising with each word, "Why? Am I too young to think? You say I'm beautiful. Is that it? I'm too beautiful to have a brain. Talk to me. I talked all night. It's your turn. If you can't explain it, then explain yourself." She threw the words at him.
The peaceful visage slipped and in a shouted whisper he answered her, "You are young, beautiful, and spirited. You haven't a clue what you ask. No! Not ask. Demand! You have not the right! I will not let you question me."
Why? What have I said? her mind screamed at her. The edge of his words still seeming to cut through the night. His accent making it seem all the more ominous.
Karyn felt drained and robbed. "Then you're just like all the others. I give. You take. Lord help me if I should want something. I thought you were different."
She pulled herself away from him and walked towards her car. She collided with the taught darkness of his chest. God I must be wasted, I didn't even see or hear him move she thought. He grabbed her by the shoulders and picked her up. He spun around, clutching her still, so the street lamp's light fell on his head as he leaned over her. He still hadn't let her feet touch the ground. God is he strong. Strong and pissed. Bad combination. An image of a young coed on a TV screen flashed through her mind as she heard the newscaster talk of rape and murder. A rib jarring thud in her chest, she felt her heart stop and her veins run cold.
"I'm more different than you know. You want. You need. You wish for me to give. I give you this!" His whisper deafened her. It was cold as steel, but much sharper. He pulled away so his face was in the light. And then for the first time that night. The first ever it seemed. He smiled. It didn't show joy. It didn't reveal peace. It screamed hunger. Evil. The light glinted off of flawless extended canines. A predators weapons. She screamed and tried to pull away. He held her long enough to make her see him for what he was. Then she broke free.
Karyn ran to her car, never looking back. Her hands felt numb as she fought with the keys to open the lock. She thought she heard his breathing. Suddenly cold hands wrenched open the door. Her body dove into the car. Keys skittered from trembling fingers to the floorboard. Arms and hands slammed the door closed. Locks were closed. She was sealed away. She was safe.
Her heart was pounding. Blood was tearing through her body faster than the veins could bear. She heard it all in her ears like a hurricane. She pressed her damp forehead against the coolness of the steering wheel as she grasped it with sweating palms. Holding on for her life. Slowly, she began to calm down. The reassuring smell and textures of her car, the sealed away security, calming her with their familiarity. I'm tired and I'm maybe a little drunk. Sylvaine was not... he couldn't be a... he was just a guy. He had to be. Those creatures just don't exist.