“I’m takin’ ya to the hosp-”
“No! Damn it! I’m fine!”
“You are not fine at all! You keep havin’ the seizures! It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense! You need a doctor!”
“Thank you, no. Not today. Not ever.”
I was done discussing the issue. It was a non-issue. I wasn’t going. No human could see me like this. My skin had taken on a permanent luminance and it got a bit brighter every time I blacked out. When I looked in the mirror, I was scared. I was bright enough that I hadn’t needed to turn on the bathroom light. My eyes were almost silver, and so bright I couldn’t see my pupils. I’d asked Dante to run to the corner mini-market and get me a pair of sunglasses to hide them. If I went to any hospital, they’d have me for government testing, probably forever, and well, I had forever… maybe. I certainly wasn’t feeling like my life would go on indefinitely just then. I just had to figure it all out without a doctor.
Quite a few times right before I passed out, I caught a glimpse of something. Whatever it was horrified me. It was always hazy but gory and awful and filled with confusion, despair, and an unspeakable rage. And it was different every time. I never saw exactly the same carnage, and the last one had a new emotion mixed in… the beginnings of indifference.
The first time I saw it, I didn’t pay attention. Too much physical pain. But when the third one came I made the effort to take note. Maybe I was just going crazy. Imaginary scenes of violence had to be the product of a deranged mind, right?
I didn’t share any of it with Dante. It scared me more than the shaking, or the light, or the pain. Talking about it meant I’d have to deal with it somehow.
“I don’t wanna move ya,” Dante protested when I told him we needed to move on. We’d been sitting ducks for days.
“We have to go, though. Too dangerous to stay in one spot too long. Dawn’s almost here and we should move in the daylight while we’ve got it.” I reached out to pat Dante’s arm and a little jolt rolled off me and zapped him.
“Well, damn! Ouch! Fine then! Let’s go!”
“I am so sorry, Dante! I didn’t mean to do that! I guess no more touching people.” Add one more to my list of disturbing symptoms.
Dante looked at me with concern and sympathy. I couldn’t handle that right then.
“Maybe you better just go. I don’t know what’s gonna start happening next. It could be really bad.”
“No way, Ana, just stop it right now.”
“I’m not kidding,” I pleaded solemnly. I couldn’t bear hurting him too. “I’m like a time bomb.”
“I don’t care,” he snapped, grabbing my bag of clothes and moving to the ugly, powder blue door. “I’m not leaving you alone. What kind of man do you take me for?”
“I know you’re a good one, that’s why I’m asking you to leave me here.” I reached for my bag but he swung it out of my reach.
“Don’t talk stupid shit.”
“I think another one’s coming…” I faltered and fell to my knees as the blackness overtook my vision.
The street was littered with body parts. They were not all human, nor were they all vampire. I could see the bodies that were flaking away, the ones that remained torn and present due to the absence of magic, and the bodies (perhaps the majority) that were turning to shining dust. My hands were bathed in blood. I felt rage, blood lust, grief, and ugh… satisfaction. And then it was gone/I was gone.
I came to in the truck with a blanket thrown over my head. It was stifling, but I didn’t take it off. I was lit up like a tree at Christmas.
“That was a long one.” I looked at the clock. It was nearly three in the afternoon! It had been just before dawn!
“God, Ana! It ain’t your fault!” He smiled a weak, stubbly smile at me, then turned his eyes back to the flat expanse of nothing in front of us. “Why apologize to me? Seems like someone- anyone should be apologizin’ to you for this. What the hell happened to cause it?”
“I just don’t know. You get zapped when you picked me up?”
He didn’t answer.
“I’m so sorry!” I started to cry.
“It’s no big thing! Darlin’, don’t cry!” He reached over to pat my shoulder and got another shock for his trouble. He jumped a bit and I felt like the world’s first human Tesla coil.
“Would you believe my life was boring three weeks ago?” I laughed through my tears. “I was a librarian. A librarian!” My laugh turned into something ugly and hinted of hysteria. I took a while to just cry it out before speaking again, “Where are we?”
“Headin’ back to Oklahoma. I figger the vamps know we were headin’ north so I took us back south. Let ’em search around Nebraska for a while.”
My traitorous heart whispered that we were going back toward him. It danced with the possibility of our bodies being close. Oh, how I ached just to feel a hand on my hair, or an arm around my waist. It felt like I was starved for oxygen. Like Eric was sunlight and I’d been in the dark forever. It was more painful than I’d ever imagined.
“You’re getting mighty bright under there. You havin’ another?”
“It’s settlin’. What were you thinkin’ ’bout?”
“Y’aughtta forget you ever laid eyes on ‘im!”
“I can’t, and I don’t guess I want to either. What the hell am I doing here? I don’t want to forget him, Dante! Why the hell did I leave? We need to go back. Please.”
“You’re not thinkin’ straight.”
“I am. I’m thinking more clearly than I have in a week. I want to go to Eric. I have to go back to Eric.” Just saying the words was pure relief, like my body knew I was going to give it what it needed. I needed Eric.
“I won’t do it, Ana! I won’t take you back to that monster!”
I pulled the blanket off my head and glared at the wolf.
“Jesus! Put that back on ‘fore you cause an accident or get us pulled over!”
I ignored him. “Dante MacNamara, you just listen and you listen good. I am not telling you I want to go back because I’m some victim that’s been brainwashed into believing a big, bad vampire is a fluffy bunny that would never hurt me. I know what he is. I’ve seen what he’s capable of…”
It hit me. I had been seeing Eric… No. Not quite. I’d been seeing Eric’s wake of destruction. Now, I had to get back to stop it.
“You have no idea how well I know what he’s capable of. Oh, God! Please! Please! I can’t let him do any more damage! I have to put it right! Only I can! Dante! Please!”
“Nothin’ you say will make me agree.”
“Dante, he’s massacring my kin to try and find me! And anyone else that’s in the way! We have to stop him!”
“More reason to stay the hell away! They’ll take him out soon enough.”
I was panicking. Panicking that he wouldn’t take me. Panicking that I could be saving a lot of lives and wasn’t. Panicking that at some point, yes, they were going to have to kill Eric to stop him.
I began crying and trying to open the truck’s door.
“Jesus, Ana!” He pulled over in a hurry and tried to reach for me.
I threw the door open and ran. Nothing but empty highway lay behind and before me, and I didn’t even know if I was running in the right direction. Not my brightest moment, despite the glowing skin. Strong arms grabbed me and I was thrown over the wolf’s shoulder. I felt the waves of power rolling of me in currents that had to be hurting him, but he never flinched as he carried me back to the truck in strong, but gentle arms.
“What are you thinkin’?!” he stormed, brown eyes wide and alarm in his voice. “Calm down! Calm down!”
I couldn’t. I pushed and struggled and flailed as much as my waning body would allow. I felt like I couldn’t get enough air. My heart was racing. I wanted to scream and run and kick and bite and punch, anything to make him let me go so I could get back to Eric.
“Fine! God dammit!” he shouted as he struggled to maintain his hold. “I’ll take you to the damn bloodsucker! But I ain’t stayin’ to see him tear you to pieces, got it? I do this, you’re on your own!”
“Fine by me!” I shouted back. “I don’t care as long as you haul ass and take me back!”
We didn’t speak after that, and it was just fine by me.
I felt like I’d been run over by something huge. I’d had two more episodes in the last hour back to Oklahoma and each had felt like some kind of irreparable damage had been done. I couldn’t maintain my shields at all.
Stopping at the fueling station was scary and disorienting. Without my shields I was assaulted and not just by the clerk’s mind in the store, I felt like I was picking up everyone for miles. I threw up in the trashcan between the pumps, then covered myself with the blanket, willing it to act as my wayward mental barriers. It didn’t, of course.
When we were within five miles of the Tulsa city limit, I had another really bad one. I came back with blood pouring from my nose and stinging in my eyes. I was practically a spot light, and no amount of blanket was hiding it completely.
Dante was standing over me on the side of the road, though how we’d gotten there, I couldn’t tell you, and he was talking to me, saying something over and over, but I couldn’t make it out. I felt like an outside observer of the scene. I could even see my own slack features as the Were sank to his knees and hugged me to his broad, flannel-covered chest, rocking my body back and forth.
I wasn’t alone.
“You’re dying,” said a melodious voice that seemed to be coming from everywhere and nowhere.
“Yes, I know. Can you fix me?”
“No. You were never supposed to hold on to it once he found you. It was too much for your body to house two active cores. Being away from your love is making it go haywire. It’s trying to get to him.”
“Pretty clear now.”
“You don’t have a lot of time. Nothing has gone according to our careful plan. He cannot make the wish she intended now.”
“What did she want?” I couldn’t imagine Sookie ever wanted this, but I still wasn’t sure what it was that she did.
“For you two to live without fear of forcible separation,” the voice replied as if it was obvious. “They never could and it drove them apart.”
I remembered the way Bill Compton had tried to give me blood. Yes, we would always have had someone trying. Likely Bill Compton. Moot point if I was dead.
“How did you do it?” I asked the light coalescing to my right.
“Her love was strong enough to create a cluviel d’or, but she didn’t have the ability to control the magic. We worked for two years to accomplish it. That’s twice the time it would normally take. It begins as love and intention which is transferred to the object which grants the wish. Her intention, being one half the magic, would keep it from activating until you loved him. We attached it to her essential spark which I had pulled from her body using a forbidden spell that nearly tore my own essence apart. I hid it within myself until you could be born again. Even then I delayed your re-entry for many years. If we had been discovered, I would have become Fallen. I had to hide you in here as well.”
The being that had materialized next to me was made of light. She had no other form that I could discern, but I imagined her touching her chest, because that’s where souls live, right?
“Thank you, Claudine.”
“Thanks will mean little if our efforts are wasted tonight.”
“I don’t know what to do. I think it’s too late. I’m going to be dead soon.”
“No, we still have one hope. She will be here soon. Go back now. Make it right.”
I opened my eyes and screamed. The pain was all consuming. I was pain and fire and nothing more. Vaguely, I was aware of another presence.
“Go on! Get outta here! You fuckin’ vamps did this to her! Look at her! She’s dyin’!”
“I do believe she was in your company last, dog. Give her to me.”
Dante was growling and the air around him shimmering. In moments he had transformed into a huge grey wolf. Pam was hissing and crouching.
I could do nothing. The effort to watch was exhausting. They were going to fight, and we didn’t have time! I needed to tell her to call to Eric. I needed her to stop trying to kill my protector, and do something useful. They were already ripping into one another. I tried to croak something out. I tried to move. I tried to will my body to cooperate for any amount of time.
But I couldn’t.