A Light In The Dark
Love. We seek it. We covet it. We long for it. We believe that it will save us. No one ever mentions the cost. No one ever mentions the pain of love. The way it burns right through your body and your soul leaving your very being in tatters. If they did, no one would believe them.
Love is something that you can only experience. Yes, it comes with all the warmth and light, but it also comes with pain. When you have both, then you know that you have finally caught that elusive bird of paradise.
You know you are in love when it is killing you and you have no thought of walking away, only toward your own destruction. If there is a price for everything then it is only right that the price for the greatest of all things would be the highest one you could ever pay.
Looking back there was so much that I should have done differently, but nothing that I could have done differently. In my pride, my pain, my rage I turned my back on the things, the people I cared most about and ran away. It was the first time I had ever let myself do that, but everyone has a tipping point. I could hate myself forever for finding mine, but it would change nothing.
I ran to Sweden, to lick my wounds and play reckless games with my own immortality. I gave no thought to how long my magical immunity to the sun would last. I gave no thought to my cries of pain as I burned alive causing an avalanche. I gave no thought to anything beyond the moment that I was in, and hanging onto that moment as best I could. I knew I wanted to live just as I was about to die.
I would have run forever. I can accept that now. I came to accept that as I felt the snow offer a cover of blessing and protection to my burning flesh. When I lost the ability to run I was forced to think and to feel. More than the burns this knowledge of my own cowardice and failure hurt me. My own mind was my enemy as was my damaged flesh.
When I was healed enough to move there was only one place to go. The place I should have stayed. When I finally made it back to her side I was too late.
I found her in her house, huddled in a corner of her room, whispering to a single candle as though it might answer. I called her name and she turned to me, her hands lighting up as she rose, the madness plain her eyes. “Eric?” she questioned me, herself.
“It’s me, Sookie.” I started toward her, but her hands grew brighter.
“You’re dead. I see you all the time in the shadows. That’s how I know!” Her hands grew brighter, and the sound of her voice drew the mutated vampires that I had seen in the field outside her house toward us.
“We must leave this place, Sookie. Please!” I reached a hand to her, not daring to approach in case she hit me full on and damned us both to the fate I could hear coming closer.
“Yes, we must,” she said, but made no move. “If you were here I would go with you. If you were here I could tell you how sorry I am for everything…I could tell you before it was too late…I could tell you…” her voice drifted off, and her hands dimmed. She looked away, turning her back to me. “If you were here, Eric, but you’re not. You’re dead like the rest. You just a ghost now and I am so sorry. SO SORRY!” she screamed the last and fell to her knees her back still to me.
I could hear the mutated Hep-V vampires coming closer and I knew that we were nearly out of time. Moving at hyper speed I picked her up and shot through the window of her room and into the night sky. The mutants were fast, but so far I had found none who could fly. We were safe as long we were in the air.
I was rising above the trees, ready for her to start fighting my hold on her, but when she started cackling madly I nearly dropped her. I was holding her back to my chest and when her head fell back to my shoulder as she laughed manically at the night sky I nearly let her go. I could feel her madness and it was a form of self-punishment that made me hold her that much tighter as I rose higher above the ground.
Glancing down I saw dozens of them watching us. Some wicked empty evil intelligence reflected the moonlight in their eyes. They were hungry. So fucking hungry that I could feel it pulling me back to them, back to the ground.
Pushing myself harder, I held Sookie tighter and pressed on to the only place I could think that might be safe. I had a safe house with a concrete bomb shelter a few miles outside of Shreveport. There was a slim chance that it would still be there, and an even slimmer one that it might be secure, but dawn was close and that was the only hope I had at the moment. She babbled all the way to Shreveport.
“They all died like you, Eric. At first we thought it was just Hep-V, but it mutated. All viruses mutate and the vampires changed. They adapted. They made the virus a part of them! They took them all, Eric. Bill, Alcide, Jason, Sam…” she drifted away again. “They don’t need blood anymore, Eric. Now they want…more.” She shuddered in my arms then, and I held her tighter, regretting so many things.
I knew what she had seen. I had seen it all around the world on my journey to her. Vampire physiology was superior at adaptation. When Burrell and Sarah Newlin had started this they thought they would wipe us out. Instead they had pushed us into evolution.
Vampires now no longer needed blood, instead they needed flesh. They needed to procreate and pass their viral load onto another host. Anyone who crossed their path fell victim to their teeth and claws and then rose within in three nights becoming a part of the horde. Part vampire, part zombie, all monster. Sunlight was their only remaining enemy.
Most of the world had fallen. I knew of several strong holds, places where they worked for a cure, but there was little hope. In less than six months over three quarters of the world has fallen victim to mutated Hep-V, or Hep-Z, as the scientists called it now. In those strongholds vampires and humans worked together to try and save themselves, but time and the odds were not in their favor.
I had been in one of those strongholds for a time on my way back to her. I had killed three of them to escape. I would have killed more, but I lacked the time and they lacked the bodies to spare. They were doing good work, but I had good work to do, too.
I had to save Sookie.
I scanned the area around the entrance to my stronghold from above. It was clear for now, but they were not far and we would have minutes at best once I hit the ground. “You must be quiet when we land, Sookie. Your voice will draw them to us if you speak before we are secure inside. Do you understand?” She nodded and I hoped that she did understand that this was not a hallucination. I was not a hallucination. If she didn’t then it would get real, fast.
The bunker’s walls and door were two feet of steel and concrete. The power was on a backup generator that I could start once I was inside. The keypad was powered by solar energy and it should be enough to release the latch and let us in. The knot in my chest did not ease until I heard the bolt snap back. I yanked open the heavy door and ushered her inside. She was surprisingly compliant and quiet.
I closed the door behind us and then turned to her heartbeat in the dark, pushing back the memory of when I had felt like it was my heartbeat, too. “I’m going to pick you up again, now, Sookie. I must turn on the generator.” I moved to pick up her up in my arms.
“Is this a dream?” she asked me in the dark, her fear and hope spiking me in the chest.
“No, my Sookie. I am really here.” I felt her turn toward me and as she had in The Authority elevator her hand lit up like a nightlight casting shadow on the concrete walls around us.
“You’ve said that before,” she whispered to me, looking up into my shadowed face. I reached a hand out to her slowly, cupping her face in my palm. Her eyes fluttered shut at my touch and she rested her weary head in my hand. She moaned her pleasure at my touch and I felt myself leaning toward her lips, wanting very much to kiss her, to reassure not only her that I was real, but myself that she was.
“I dreamed of you, too, my Sookie,” I said just before my lips brushed hers. She sobbed and her light went out as she grabbed my head like a drowning woman and deepened the kiss. She tasted of desperation. It was a new sensation from this woman that I had shared so much with. I let my arms fold her closer to me, letting her feel me, all of me, seeking other ways to reassure her that before her stood a vampire who would die to protect her.
Her tears fell to my lips and their salt mixed with the desperation making something akin to melancholy on my tongue. The spike of pain in my chest deepened and regret rose up from me to add to the concoction of this kiss. I wanted to cry, too, but I could not spare the blood.
“Where’ve you been?” she asked when rested my forehead on hers in the dark.
“Finding my way back to you.” It was the first of many truths I would speak to her before we left the safety of this shelter. There was so much to say, and as always there was no time. My moment of peace with her was shattered when she screamed and jerked out of my arms.
“NO! You are NOT here!” she pushed back and started to try and run, but was so lost her madness that she didn’t light up again. She only made it a few steps before colliding with a wall, and crashed first into it and then to the ground. I was beside her instantly, the smell of her blood filling my nostrils.
My fangs dropped. It had been nearly two weeks since I had fed and I needed to get some blood soon before I weakened and could no longer fight. I had some True Blood here, stored before the infection was released, before the factories were destroyed. It was barely more than nothing, but it would delay the inevitable until I could talk to Sookie and see if she would be willing to let me drink from her. She whimpered when I picked her up and moved quickly through the pitch black halls of my underground compound.
First, I started the generator and then I placed her on the bed in what had been Pam’s room. Pam, my heart clenched again. She had met the True Death. I didn’t know how but I had felt her go. Another regret. Another piece of fallout from my reckless foolishness. I should have stayed and made sure all the infected blood was destroyed. I should have stopped the infected vampires from leaving the camp. I should have been there to protect Pam.
I found my stash and downed three bottle before I let myself return to Sookie. She was still out, tossing and turning fretfully on the bed pink bedspread. Once the water heaters were up and running I would bathe her. I could tell that she had not been taking care of herself. Perhaps a warm bath would bring her back to the woman she had been. The woman I needed her to be.
I felt the blood drip from my nose as I stood there. I needed to rest. I could not spare the blood that I would lose from the bleeds. I stood there a wasteful minute more, looking down at her, debating whether I should trust her to not stake me or blast me if I dared to sleep beside her.
I couldn’t leave her though. Shaking my head I decided that we would bathe tonight, and I climbed gently in beside her, tucking her up next to me and holding her close. If she ended me, so be it. I had nothing left but Sookie. The chips would have to fall where they might.
I kissed her head and felt her settle against me, her restless movements ceasing as her arms slid around me. Despite everything, being near her made me feel hope. When she sighed and drifted into a peaceful sleep just seconds ahead of me I let myself believe that I made her feel that hope as well.
“Sookie,” I whispered as I surrendered to the call for rest. Sookie…my light in the dark.