Sara's Awakening Ch. 05byHelenofTroy©
Sara's dreams were troubled. Filled with blood and danger and... joy? Sick joy at the sight of blonde hair matted with blood... a thrill at the sound of people screaming for help. Twisted pleasure as she considered a bound woman who was crying and begging...
She woke up in blackness. Again. It felt like there was something heavy on top of her. A tarp maybe? Fighting against the panic which was welling up inside her at the thought of being in darkness again, she pushed hard at the cloth covering her, pushing it up off face. While this helped with the darkness, her right arm screamed in pain at the feeling. She bit back her own scream, then looked at her arm in surprise.
How had she been able to even move it? Last she remembered it was lying on the ground in front of her, newly hacked off by the man in the cowboy hat. Now it seemed to be attached again...? She ran her eyes and her left hand up and down the length of her arm. The skin was pristine and tingled in response to her touch. Nothing but an angry red ring above her elbow testified to what happened to it only hours ago. Hours? She didn't even know how long it had been... it looked like the sun was starting to come up!
"Hey! She's awake! How's it going, Sara?" Merton's voice, chipper and more sprightly than she could remember hearing it, came from the front of the truck.
"I... better." Although her arm looked better, the pain when she tried to move it suggested that it was still healing. She wasn't perfect. Compared to how she'd been when she jumped into the back of the truck she was stellar.
"Good to hear! Sorry it's bumpy back there."
"It's fine." Sara was proven wrong when the truck gave a particularly violent lurch and she needed to brace herself with her injured arm. The pain was intense, but she managed to bite back a shriek. Merton heard her scream enough this past night. "You know... I think that the woman I thought was Connor's wife was not his wife."
"No. I think..." Sara took a deep breath, trying to cling to her dreams at the same time as she tried to banish them. "I think he killed her."
"Huh." Merton was quiet for a moment. "Feeling less bad for killing him?"
"A little." Sara didn't like what that meant about her. Still, if her dreams were even partially right, Connor did some pretty terrible things. "Hey, the sun's rising." Sara noticed the horizon for the first time. The clouds were turning purple and orange as the sun was cresting in the distance, highlighting the huge, lonely desert they were driving through.
As she considered the sun's arrival, she looked down at her skin. It was pale... white almost, and she could see the blue of her veins through it. What would the sun do to her? "Will I sparkle?" There it was again... she could remember random things about movies, but not even the most basic facts about her life!
"No, you'll burn. You should get back under the tarp."
"I bet you say that to all the girls..." Sara giggled, relieved that it wasn't the frantic giggle of blood loss from earlier. It would be good to get back to sleep... sitting up and having part of a conversation drained most of the energy out of her.
"Just the ones that will burst into flames in the back of my truck when the sun rises." Merton chuckled to himself as he said it, then focused on the road so he could pass three cars and a van. "Seriously, though? Get under the tarp."
"Yes, mom." Sara was touched by the note of concern in his voice. A rebellious part of her kept her from accepting it gracefully.
Still, he knew more about her condition than she did. Using her left hand she hauled the tarp back over her head and lay back down on the hard, ridged metal of the truck bed. For a moment she wondered how she'd ever gotten to sleep in here. Then she fell back asleep.
Sara stared at her pie. She pushed it around with her fork, watching the trail of purple syrup follow it around. It did look good. The filling was a blueberry, cherry combination. The blueberries were large and plump, the cherries glistened in the fluorescent light, and the liquid was still steaming, almost like it just came out of the oven. Maybe it had. The crust was light and flaky, baked to a tempting golden brown and covered with fine granules of Turbinado sugar. It was topped with fluffy whipped cream that looked like it might be the real stuff.
For diner food, it looked excellent.
Licking her lips, she couldn't quite bring herself to eat it. So, instead, she looked up and over at the table her eyes kept drifting back to. Sitting at it was a man in a heavy duster and riding leathers. He had a bike helmet on the seat beside him, and was busy eating a plate of chicken-fried steak with hands that were easily twice as large as normal hands, covered in blue fur and could really be best described as paws. The... paws matched the two blue ears on top of his head, the paws on his feet and the tail that rose up behind him in the booth and twitched happily while he ate his steak.
"You should stop staring." Merton chided between mouthfuls of pie.
"Does no one else see what I'm seeing?"
"No." Merton paused to blow on a middle piece, then stuffed that into his mouth. It must be good... or he was really hungry. When Sara gave him a frustrated look he sighed and paused before eating another forkful. "It's called a glamer. People look at him and they see just another biker, who happens to have some wild blue hair."
"So they don't see... anything else?" Sara was looking at her pie, trying not to stare, but involuntarily looked back up again. "What is he anyway?"
"He's a catboy. And no... that's all they see."
"Why can I see him, then?"
"A glamer doesn't work like an illusion does. Really, it almost can't be called magic." He laughed derisively around a bite of pie. "It helps you overlook things that you don't believe can be real. Being a vampire and a necromancer, you and I have developed a healthy skepticism for the classic definition of real, so we can see right through it. Along those lines, if you keep staring then someone's going to wonder what you're staring at. Then they're going to wonder if those are really cat ears... and pretty soon we're going to have an angry catboy whose glamer you broke to deal with."
"Oh." Sara made a concerted effort not to look at the catboy anymore. "So, what's with ordering me pie?"
"What?" Merton finished the last bite of his and was busy chasing a stray blueberry around the plate. "You don't like pie?"
"No, I mean yes, I mean can I actually eat it?" Since waking up, she'd had nothing in her mouth except blood.
"Sure. You work like you used to." He gestured up and down with his blue fork, a motion that was meant to encompass Sara's body. "With a few differences. The pie's not going to help with the hungry, but you already refused me on that one."
"I'm not!" She started off yelling, then quieted down when a trucker looked over grumpily. "I'm not drinking some random person's blood. What did they ever do to me?"
"Made you hungry so you can't think straight?"
Merton had a point. Ever since they'd come into the diner, her thoughts were half-filled with the sound of everyone's blood rushing through their veins. It was like a distant, far-off symphony... each instrument beat to its own personal time, all of them combining together into a growing crescendo of beautiful music!
Shaking her head, she had a bite of pie. It was very good.
"Nevermind. So am I not, you know, undead?"
"What's undead?" Merton sat back as he posed the question philosophically, then chased his pie with coffee so filled with cream and sugar it might as well not be coffee.
"You know... someone who used to be dead who's not now."
"Oh, really? You know, I used to date this ER doc... great ass, by the way." Merton made a motion with his hands as if he were squeezing something. When he noticed that he was getting the stink eye from Sara, he stopped and continued. "She might disagree with that particular definition. She brought a dead person back to life almost every other day."
"Okay. So it's what you did with those bodies back in the facility."
"Is it? Because that was only... puppetry." He made his hands dance in the air like he was controlling marionettes. "I've seen robots that do more complicated things..."
"Alright, you got me. What's undead?"
"That's my point... I don't know! Maybe you're undead, maybe you're not. I know that you breathe, your heart beats, you think and you feel pain. You get hungry, you get sleepy, you bleed like the rest of us when your arm gets cut off... as far as I'm concerned, you're alive but different."
"Fine." Sara polished off her pie. True to Merton's words she was still ravenously hungry. "How different? You said I was invincible earlier, but I think that the Dragon Knight proved that's not correct."
"You're... more invincible than the normal person." Merton shrugged. "You can regenerate very quickly, you move with incredible speed, you can even make your skin hard as diamond."
"That's what Gareth said, anyway."
"Who... who is Gareth? I recognized him in the morgue, but I don't know why."
"Look, what do you want to know? I can only explain one thing at a time..."
"Fine. What can kill me?" Sara sighed. She knew he was right. She'd been burning with questions since waking upside down in that dark room, but throwing every single one of them at Merton all at once wasn't going to get them solved.
"Well, like I said, a lot of bullets. Really, any damage of any sort can kill you if you take enough of it. Your body regenerates fast, but it uses up its stored energy to do so... eventually you'll start taking the energy that you need to live, and then your body will start to shut down." Merton finished off the coffee, then stared forlornly at his empty plate. "As you've already learned, blades can dismember you pretty well. Sever the connection between your brain and your heart? I think that would do it..."
"Great. What about garlic? Silver? Stakes? Sunlight? You said I would burn if the sun touched me."
"Direct sunlight will burn you, but I think you can... get used to it. Gareth and some of the other, older ones could walk around in direct sunlight in bathing suits and look no worse for wear. Garlic? No idea... I think the rumour might have started because your nose is so much better than normal."
He was right. Besides the normal diner smells, she could smell oil and leather wafting off the catboy. She could smell the hairspray the teenager four tables over wore, and the faint trace of combustion coming off of a car in the parking lot. If she closed her eyes and concentrated, she could even smell the milk on a mother fox whose den was half a mile out into the desert behind the roadside diner.
"Stakes are a funny situation. If something pierces your heart and stays there long enough you wouldn't be able to regenerate and would eventually die. I don't think a wooden stake would have much chance of actually piercing your heart, though. Silver blades seem to be more effective than normal, but silver bullets are shit. They're too hard, so they blast a clean hole right through you which heals in moments. There are a few exceptions. A silver bullet in the head would be bad...
"Running water is not a problem, I haven't seen any of you stop to count spilled matchsticks although Gareth always did seem a bit OCD to me, and catch!" Merton retrieved something from his pocket and tossed it to Sara. Reflexively she caught it out of the air, and immediately smelled the distinct odour of burning flesh. The pain came a moment later and she dropped the crucifix onto the table. She stared at it in surprise.
"All of that and a cross hurts?"
"Magic is real, and it surprises you that faith carries power with it?" Merton raised a skeptical eyebrow and retrieved the cross. "A holy symbol, worn or crafted by a true believer, has power. It also applies to other faiths, so don't go thinking you're safe from Buddhists or Democrats."
"True belief in a power greater than themselves. Don't touch campaign pins."
Sara considered Merton's words, and realized that it all rang true. She might not know in her conscious mind what was going on, but this information was not new to her. It was the strangest feeling... not like awakening memories, more like being reminded of something she'd forgotten for a long time. Even the knowledge that Gareth was older, or that he could walk around in the sun in a bathing suit, was familiar. Yet she didn't know what her relationship with him was. It must be strong, given that her first instinct was to try and bring him back to life, but she couldn't bring any details to mind.
"Okay, well, thank-you for telling me all that, Merton." She wanted to press him for more information, but it occurred to her that now that they were free he had no need of her. He was her only link to her past. What was she to him? She didn't know, and she was suspecting that 'nothing' covered it. "I... actually, please excuse me for a moment."
"See? Told you everything worked like it used to." Merton's voice carried as she walked towards the bathroom. She turned and glared at him.
"Let's not talk about it."
As she was washing up, Sara stopped to look at herself in the mirror. She still didn't recognize the person she saw, but she looked different now. The sunken eyes and worn features were gone, replaced with... beauty. Her skin was smooth and glistened ever-so-slightly in the artificial light, her eyes were clear and bright, her features were symmetrical and... well, hot.
Her hair was doing much better, too. In less than a day it had gone from a ragged buzz cut to something that resembled a messy bob. Even without any product it sat the right way, and the ends didn't look damaged or split.
"Weird..." She shrugged and finished washing her hands. Maybe later she could ask Merton why she looked so different so quickly.
When she got back out of the bathroom, Merton was gone. Thirty bucks sat next to the check at their table, and she could hear their truck rumbling in the parking lot. Where did he get the money? At least he hadn't pulled away, which meant he wasn't trying to leave without her. Considering it, she wondered if he could... earlier she'd run faster than bullets, what was to stop her from running faster than a truck?
The catboy was gone too, which was disappointing. When she first came in she didn't get a good look at his face, so she wanted to know what he actually looked like under that fur. Catboys were definitely not on the top of her easily accessible memories.
Out in the darkness of the parking lot Merton was nowhere to be seen. The truck was running, but there was no one in the cab. She sniffed the air, trying to catch that telltale vanilla scent she was starting to associate with him, when he hissed at her from behind the diner in a stage whisper.
"Hey! Get back here!" Merton did his best not to draw attention, but if anyone else was in the parking lot they would have heard him too. Luckily, no one else was.
Sara trotted around the side of the diner and came around to see Merton crouched low to the ground cradling an unconscious catboy.
"Got you something to eat." Merton beamed up at her, his face bright and eager to see her pleased.
Sara took a wary step backwards.
"What did you do to him?"
"Knocked him out a little. Don't worry, he won't feel a thing." Merton grabbed the catboy's limp arm and raised it up, offering her an oversized paw and the veins that pulsed with life beneath the wrist. She could hear it... ba-bump, ba-bump. Slow, rhythmic and steady, like he was asleep. Her stomach growled.
"How do you knock someone out a little?" She stalled with humour. "He looks all the way out to me."
"I mean it won't last long." He made a sour face, clearly disappointed she wasn't being more grateful. "So come on."
"No." Sara backed up another step. She could feel her resolve weakening! She tried to keep her eyes locked to Merton's, but they kept drifting back to the catboy's neck where she could see his skin shivering with each beat of his heart. It was subtle, almost imperceptible. When paired with the noise she could see his entire body quiver with each beat. On the first half of the beat, the blood rushed out into his extremities, bringing with it life and oxygen. On the second half, it rushed back through his veins, returning to the heart to be refreshed. Ba-bump ba-bump ba-bump...
"You know you waaaaant it." Merton's voice took on a sing-song tone. She recognized the tone, like it was from a commercial or TV show, but couldn't put her finger on it.
Before she knew it, she was crouched beside Merton with the catboy's arm in her hands. His wrist at her mouth. She sucked in a deep breath, full of the salt of the catboy's skin and the harsh scent of his riding leathers. She flicked out a tongue and tasted floral notes of body wash along with the tang of sweat. She rubbed her cheek against his pulse, feeling it beat against her face, feeling his warmth...
She couldn't stop herself. Her fangs had come out at some point. They sunk easily into warm flesh, piercing to the vein with no effort. Hot blood spilled forth, less urgent and powerful than the arterial flood from Connor, but oh so sweet. It tasted different from Connor's, too. The arterial blood was full of light and life, brimming with potential. This was... more mature, somehow. Notes of bitterness and earthiness floated past her tongue, tingled down her throat. She guessed it was because this blood came from a vein. Its oxygen payload was depleted, and it had served its purpose.
Connor's blood was like a mixer: in your face, full of flavor and sneaking the alcohol in over your taste buds. This was like a finely aged wine, subtler in flavor and more obviously alcoholic. She savoured each gulp, sucking hard against the catboy's wrist to increase the flow of his blood down her mouth. She sucked in time with his heartbeat, letting up when it pumped out, inhaling strongly when it brought the blood back. Each time she was rewarded with a pulse of delicious vitality against her palette.
"Okay, okay, that's enough..."
A strong hand grabbed her shoulder and tried to pull her off. She clung to the catboy's arm tenaciously, resisting the pull. Next, fingers hitched themselves around the corners of her mouth and pulled... pulled her away from her meal. He was stronger than he should be, and the pain of having her lips pulled backward interrupted the pleasure of the meal.
She snapped at the intruder, clicking her teeth together inches from his skin and hissing in anger...
Then she realized what was happening and jumped away from both the catboy and Merton, putting a shocked hand against her lips. What had she done?
"Wow, you were really hanging on there... look at these teeth marks." Merton seemed unphased that she'd tried to bite him, and instead held the catboy's wrist up for her inspection. She could see purple bruise marks where her teeth dug into the catboy's arm; a perfect mouthprint surrounding the two pin-sized holes where her fangs pierced his skin.
"I..." Sara started backpedaling, trying to put as much distance as she could between herself and the evidence that she couldn't control the beast inside her.
"Hey, don't worry about it." Merton unceremoniously dropped the catboy onto the ground behind the diner and walked to catch up with Sara. "I'm told most vampires need a feeding buddy for the first while to keep them in check."
That didn't help. Sara kept backing up until she ran into the hood of their truck. The rumbling metal pressed up against her back, grounding her, bringing her back to a world of cars... and people chasing them.