By Kaitlyn Emery
Dreaming is one of the few comforts I have left.
I dream of the sunset sky glowing in shameless display, of a radiant amber symphony rising from the depths before the sun gives way to the moon. I dream, because the moment the true sun touches my skin, primal instincts to survive will kick in. How I wish the need to survive could be as dead as I am. Then I could enter eternal slumber and let the rising sun caress me with its warmth.
But I wake up.
The lid to my casket opens with a groan, echoing the way I feel every time I crawl inside it.
I miss the dream-warmth fiercely. All I feel now are two extremes. Cold, or burning. The great ball of burning light I used to love would blister my skin now, sizzling it into overcooked flesh and reducing me to dust.
Being a vampire does have its advantages. Money. Youth. No death. The diet sucks, no pun intended, but lots of people are willing to overlook that. Not me. But then again, I didn’t have a choice when I got turned on a simple walk home all those years ago.
I grab the black bag I’d prepared the night before, pushing the past from my mind. I needed to get to the private hospital on Orange Blossom Parkway.
It’s a short walk. Long enough for me to feel a sense of finality, but short enough my brain doesn’t have time to second guess.
The hospital smells. As a human I didn’t think so, but now the combined smell of blood and antiseptic makes me nauseous.
I never enter through the front doors. Visiting hours don’t exactly work for my kind. It’s easier that way. After decades of lying about my connection to the people I love, it gets old.
“Hey, slugger,” I greet the old man lying in the hospital bed as I come in through his private balcony.
Nathan smiles. He’s been waiting for me, as he always is. The only upside to life as a vamp is the ability to take care of your loved ones in style.
“Did you see that ball game tonight, Pops?” Nathan asks, then coughs, his lungs wheezing. It takes him a moment to speak again. “What a game those Giants played!”
I nod. “Still one of my biggest regrets. Should have gone pro, then I could’ve worn those flashy orange jerseys.”
To an onlooker, we would be an odd sight. The old man in the bed doesn’t seem a candidate for the title of slugger, but I remember sitting in the hospital the night he was born.
I was newly changed at 23, and unable to control myself around the bloody process that is childbirth. I’d waited in the hall, cursing the monster who cost me my moment with Elsie as she brought our son into this world. The moment they laid Nathan in my arms, I vowed to make sure no harm ever came to him. And it didn’t. Until the diagnosis.
“What’s in the bag, old man?”
Nathan’s voice brings me back to the present, and my task at hand.
I step closer to the bed. “Son… do you trust me?”
Nathan nods, his expression cautious.
“No parent should have to bury their child, Nathan.”
Nathan’s eyes take on a deep sadness. “I know, Pops. And I’m so sorry. But I can’t escape death.”
“And I would never want you to carry the burden of eternity. But I can’t live under the weight anymore either. I need you to let me take care of you one last time.”
The only sound between us is the sickening wheeze to Nathan’s lungs.
“I can’t lose you like I did your mom, slugger.”
I see the war waging in Nathan’s mind as he fiddles with his bedsheets. “What do you want me to do?”
I open the black case filled with medical equipment. “Let me perform an exchange transfusion directly from my veins.”
“Which will do… what?”
“My blood will target and eradicate the disease inside your body over the next few days, but it won’t alter your natural lifespan. It’s a cure without the curse.”
“Sounds too good to be true,” Nathan replies, suspicion in his watery eyes. “What’s the catch, Pops?”
I’d hoped he wouldn’t ask. “My body will reject the transfusion. This would be the last time I see you, son.”
Nathan’s shoulders slump. He looks old and frail lying there, the weight of my destiny on his shoulders. I knew I was asking a lot, but I need him to let me do this. My family was growing beyond me. Soon, no one in my bloodline will even know I was the patriarch of the family. Life without Nathan… I just can’t watch my child die.
There is sorrow in Nathan’s voice when he finally speaks. “Okay, Pops.”
I squeeze Nathan’s hand, putting all the relief I feel into that touch, and then begin the procedure.
There is silence between us as I put my pre-med schooling to work. As our blood exchanges through the tubes, the constant wheezing that plagues Nathan eases. Color returns to his face. The blood that made me undead is bringing him back to life.
Nathan’s eyes hang heavy as I finish. “I’m so… tired.”
“Rest, son. Let the blood do its work.” I kiss his head, tucking him in for the last time.
“I love you, Pops.”
“I know, son. I love you, too. Make memories with that new little one for me.”
I stumble my way onto the balcony, my instinct to survive dulled by the transfusion. As I sink into one of the chairs out there, a sliver of light pierces the dark. For the first time in decades, I watch as tangerine and scarlet streak the sky and the sun rises from its grave. I close my eyes, feeling warmth as I drift into eternal sleep, no longer dreaming of the dawn.