Looking down at the floor, I exhaled and tried futilely to slow the frantic beating of my heart. I knew they all could hear it, and Jack especially was susceptible to it.
The thought of being a vampire, which had crossed my mind much more frequently than I had ever imagined it would, both excited and terrified me, but that was par for the course. Nearly everything about them was simultaneously exciting and terrifying, and I could never seem to reconcile the two.
“Alice, it’s really awesome,” Jack chimed in helpfully. “You’ve seen me. I’m awesome.”
“Jack,” Mae scolded him.
“It’s not a decision you can take lightly,” Ezra went on, and Mae had gotten a particularly solemn expression. I didn’t fully understand it, especially based on how much she loved having me around. “This is something that changes everything about your life, and it’s irreversible. If you decide that this is what you want to do, you cannot go back. But if you decide not to turn, we won’t hold it against you.”
“It will make your life harder, though,” Jack interjected.
“Jack!” Mae snapped. “You can’t make this choice for her!”
“I’m not trying to!” Jack sighed dramatically and shook his head.
“If you do turn, the thirst is a bit overwhelming, as Jack can attest to,” Ezra gestured to Jack, who nodded heavily in agreement. “All your senses become much more heightened, and all your movements feel exaggerated. Your emotions are stronger, too. They’re all right at the surface, and you’re volatile. You’re libido increases, as does your general lust for anything.”
“It’s almost like being a child again,” Jack elaborated. “Everything feels so new, and you’re clumsy.”
“Your body has to acclimate to a whole new way of being. It’s not a simple process,” Ezra continued. “The hardest thing to deal with at first is the bloodlust. The hunger you feel now can’t even compare to what you’ll feel then. It’s a hard thing to learn to control, but it is very manageable once you do.”
“So, you guys are always hungry?” I asked nervously.
“In a way,” Ezra admitted. “But it’s not that intense. If it was, you wouldn’t have survived this long.”
“Thanks.” I wondered how I could feel so safe in the house with them.
“It’s not meant to be a threat,” Ezra laughed. “It’s just the way things are. For the most part, being a vampire is a wonderful, amazing gift. But there are two things that are double-edged swords.
“The first is the blood,” Ezra went on. “Its life giving, and there aren’t words to describe how wonderful it makes you feel. But when you can’t feed for any prolonged length of time, say several weeks, it is the most excruciatingly pain imaginable. Before you get your bloodlust under control, the frenzy of feeding can have horrendous ramifications. It is an immeasurable pleasure, but unless it’s properly controlled, it is devastatingly dangerous.”
“That’s good to know,” I swallowed hard.
“I’ve got it under control for the most part, and I have horrible impulse control,” Jack offered.
“The second thing is immortality.” Ezra breathed deeply and looked down at Mae. She had a faraway, sad look, and I hoped that someone would explain it to me. “We’re not truly immortal. If you damage our brain or our heart, or we go long enough without feeding, we will die. But barring another vampire attacking us, there really is very little that stops us. We are slow to turn other vampires as a result of it. So, please, don’t think this is a casual invitation we are giving you.”
I felt humbled. It actually hadn’t occurred to me that there would be a limit on vampire membership, but it was incredibly flattering knowing that I was even being considered.
“But there is a very heavy price with that,” Ezra continued gravely. “Everything around you will die. Even this town, it will change, and things you loved and held dear will be destroyed. You will outlast everything. There is more of a burden in that than you can possibly imagine.”
“Does that mean that I can’t see my brother? Or just that it will be painful watching him grow old?” My voice felt small and shaky, and my hands trembled.
Ezra shared a look with Mae, who nodded, and then she stood up, saying, “I have to show you something.”
“You’re gonna take her?” Jack groaned and got up. “She doesn’t need to see it.”
“You’re just saying that because you think she’ll change her mind,” Mae told Jack.
“If it would change her mind, then it should!” Mae snapped. “If she doesn’t have all the facts because you kept them from her, and she makes a decision that she later regrets, then she’ll spend the rest of eternity resenting you. Is that really what you want?”
“No,” Jack muttered and rubbed the back of his neck.
“What’s going on?” I asked nervously, standing up.
“I’m going to take you to see something,” Mae forced a smile at me. Then she turned back to Ezra and kissed him. “We won’t be gone too long.”
“Okay. Be safe.” Ezra looked sad to so her go, but he smiled reassuringly at me. “It’ll be alright.”
“What’s going on?” I asked Jack, feeling strangely frightened as I followed Mae out of the living room.
“I guess you gotta go,” Jack sighed and sat back down. “I’ll see you in a bit.”
“Where are we going?” I was right behind Mae, but I could see the drawn look on her face, and I was afraid of where we were going that would cause her to look so pained.
“I’ll explain in the car.”
- 20 -
By the time I got into her Jetta, nervous anticipation filled me. Whatever she wanted to show me could scare me off becoming a vampire. I half-expected some horrifying monster or a stash of human corpses or something equally disturbing. What else could there be that would completely change mind about turning?
The soft music of Nina Simone playing out of the car stereo did little to make me feel good, and I stared apprehensively at Mae, who in turn, stared straight ahead, looking rather tragic.
“I was born in Reading, England in 1928,” Mae explained in a voice so sad, it barely sounded like her. “When I was very young, the second World War broke out. Towards the end, American soldiers were stationed all over England. Philip was the most dashing young man I had ever met.” She smiled lightly at that, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Despite my best attempts at being virtuous, I ended up pregnant at sixteen, and Philip was an upstanding man, so we were wed. My first child, a son I named Samuel, was born while he was still fighting in the war.