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Once Bitten

Fan Fiction by Adam Smith (USA)

Chapter 4

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A sharp pounding on the door interrupted them.  They stopped and turned their heads toward the noise, both knowing who it was.  There was momentary silence.  Then another series of knocks, louder this time--insistent.  They looked at each other, and Oskar, scared at the hint of anger returning to her eyes, whispered, “let me talk to him.”

He got up, wiped the blood off his face with the back of his hand, and had the fleeting realization when he touched his cheek that it had healed.  The weird sensation of not being himself, of having had his world turned upside down, returned to him as he reached the door and peered through the peephole. 

An extremely angry, middle-aged, overweight man in a blue terrycloth bathrobe was standing outside the door.  Just as Oskar was taking in his corkscrewed hair and stubbly, haggard face, oddly distorted by the fish-eye lens, a seemingly huge, meaty fist came up, blocking his view and he knocked again, rattling the door in its frame.

“Yes?  Who is it?”  The trembling in his voice was not feigned.

“I’m from upstairs!  What the hell is going on in there?”

“Uh . . . it’s my mother.  She’s sick—you know . . . senile.  Crazy.  She’s off her medication and my dad, um, just went out to get some more.  We’re, ah, trying to keep her calm and stuff, but sometimes she gets like this if we run out.  We’re . . . we’re really sorry.”

He had heard the sound of his own voice, and even he was not convinced by what he’d said.  Fearful, he looked again.  The man shifted on his feet and stared, stony-faced, at the peephole.

“Well, it’s the middle of the night and we’re trying to sleep!  Your ‘momma’ was with it enough to call me a bastard, and dare me to come down here.  So tell her to come out here so we can talk!”

Suddenly Oskar realized that Eli was pushing him aside.  Before he could react, she opened the door and stood directly in the doorway.  And as she spoke he had a perfect view of her profile. 

He was amazed: there was no anger in her face whatsoever.  In an instant, she had transformed herself into the perfect image of a sad, pathetic little girl, standing there in a washed-out nightgown.  She looked respectfully up at the man with big, wet eyes; her mouth was slightly downturned and her lower lip trembled. 

“Sir, we’re really, really sorry.  We’ll do our best to keep her calm, I promise.  My dad will be back soon, I think.  She won’t make another peep.”

The man looked at her, suddenly confused.  He had not expected to see this little waif of a girl behind the door, and her sorrowful expression completely disarmed him.  Eli looked down meekly and rubbed her naked feet together.

“Well, I . . . well, you know, it’s very rude to have this sort of thing going on at this time of the night.  I gotta go to work early.  So, ah, you know . . . just keep it down.”

Eli looked up at him again and took a step out into the hallway; she was now less than two feet from him.  She lowered her voice to a near whisper and nodded her head in understanding.  “We’re trying to get her to go to sleep now, sir.  This almost never happens.  Please tell your wife we’re very sorry.”

Now his anger had faded completely, and he, too, was involuntarily nodding in tandem with Eli.  “All right.  No problem.”  He slowly turned and walked away.

For a terrible moment, Oskar was afraid that Eli would leap upon him, but she didn’t.  Instead, she just stepped back inside and shut the door.

He stared at her.  “That was amazing.  How’d you do that?”

She gave him a small, secretive smile.  “You’ll see.”

As they cleaned up the mess in the bedroom, he began to talk about something that had been bothering him since he’d woken up.  “Eli.  About last night.  When you were—you know . . . biting me.”

She put the box down and looked at him expectantly.

“Well, I-- . . . well, there’s something I don’t understand.  At first, it hurt really bad.  But then, after a while, I didn’t want you to stop.  I mean, I kinda liked it—which I know sounds crazy.  Why was that?”

She put a smurf back in the box and came over to him.  “Was it just ‘like’?”

“No.  You’re right . . . it was stronger.  Not just ‘like.’” He frowned as he tried to relate how he had felt; then he looked up at her with a puzzled expression.  “It was more like . . . love.  I mean, I’d--I think maybe I would feel the same way if you did it again right now.  I don’t think I’d stop you.”

There was a pause as she studied him carefully; she seemed impressed by his statement.  Then she said, “That’s because it was love, Oskar.  I knew it by how you acted--once you stopped resisting.  I’ve seen it before a few times, but only in older folks.  But maybe that’s just because we knew each other before; loved each other before.

“And when I felt your love, Oskar, I loved you, too.  Only . . . not like I feel when I say, ‘I love you.’” 

He looked at her with a blank expression.  “Umm . . . I don’t follow any of this.”

“Sit down, then.  Because you need to understand it.”  Together, they sat down on the bed, facing each other.

“Ever heard of the cycle of life, Oskar?”

“Yeah--sure.  In school.  It means that . . . umm-- things are born, they live for awhile, have babies, and then die.  And then their babies grow up and do the same thing.”

Eli nodded.  “Mmm hmm.  And animals grow and live by feeding on other living things, right?  It’s just how life works, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, you’re part of that cycle, too, Oskar.  Only you’re used to eating, not being eaten . . . until last night.  Let me ask you: have you ever hunted?”

“Mmm . . . well, sort of.  Dad used to shoot elder duck.”

“Okay . . . that’s a start.  Did you feel bad when the duck died?”

Oskar thought for a second.  “Maybe a little.  I guess, yeah.”

“Did you still eat it?”

“Of course.”

“Feel guilty?”

“Not really.”

“Why not?  Your dad killed something.  For the two of you to enjoy, right? ”

“Yeah, but—that’s different.  It was an animal.”

“I know; a duck’s not a person.  But everything has to die sooner or later, right?”

“Right . . .”  Oskar wasn’t sure where Eli was going.

“Once you die, what happens to your body?”

“It . . . well, it breaks down.  It . . . decomposes, I guess.  Unless you get some kind of special coffin that seals you up.  Or you’re cremated.”

“That’s right.  It’s broken down and digested by all the little microbes and bacteria.  And they use your body for their own energy, so they can reproduce and keep going on.”

Oskar hadn’t thought about this so deeply, but he slowly nodded.  “Yeah . . . I guess so.”

“People can die for all sorts of reasons, can’t they?  Old age, heart attacks, lightning, bee stings, you name it, right?”

“Uh huh.”

“Some of it’s pretty pointless, isn’t it?  Getting run over by a car, for example.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Well, if you had a choice, wouldn’t you rather die a death that has meaning, rather than one that doesn’t?”

“I guess—”

“--all other things being equal, I mean,” she added.

“Yes.”

“Okay.  Let me ask you this, then.  Do you think God approves of predators?”

“Approves?  Well . . . he made them, I suppose.   All those lions and tigers and—”

“--and bears, and hyenas, and eagles, and wolves, and foxes, and alligators, and sharks, .  . . and so on.”

“Yeah.”  He nodded.

“And people, too.  Right?  I mean, aren’t you a predator?”

“Well, I never . . . I mean, I never went out and killed anything myself.”

“Okay, maybe so.  But think about it.  Someone--some person, somewhere along the line, had to, right?  Like the drumsticks or hamburger you buy at the store, hmm?  At some point, someone killed a chicken or a cow, right?”

“Uh huh.”

“So God must approve of all these predators running around, eating everything.  Or a least, He knew that they would exist at some point after He started all of this . . . life in motion.  Unless you want to say that . . . God doesn’t know everything.”

Oskar, growing impatient, shifted on the mattress and uncrossed his legs.  “Umm, where is all of this going, Eli?”

“What I’m trying to tell you, Oskar, is something I’ve learned, just having been myself for the last two centuries: that predators serve a function in creation, just like trees and bees.  And I know—because I’ve seen it myself--that sometimes, when a prey realizes that it’s going to die, and can get past the pain and fear, it . . . accepts its death.  It may even . . . love the thing that’s killing it.  Realizes that its death has a purpose, has meaning . . . even if it’s only to keep something else alive a little bit longer.”

Oskar straightened up and ran his hand through his hair.  “Wow, Eli.  That’s really . . . hmm, I’ll have to think about—but . . . what you say does kind of fit how I felt last night.  Because after I stopped being scared, and knew that there was nothing I could do, I was kind of . . . happy that you were doing it.  Knowing that my . . . blood, my life . . . would help you live.  And even though I couldn’t understand why you’d attacked me, in the end I wanted you to finish.  I didn’t want you to stop.”  He looked at her quizzically.

“Yes.  And when I knew that’s how you felt, I loved you too, Oskar.  Not the part of me, the human part, who’d never want to hurt you. That was the part of me that fed you my own blood, that  . . . ended up saving you.  But while I was still—” she looked down, then slowly brought her face up to his again—“a vampire, I . . . loved you as my prey.  Because I knew that you were prepared to die for me, so that I could live.  Like a sacrifice.  That you weren’t really mad at me anymore, for what I was doing.  Does that make sense?”

“Yeah.  But wait a minute--it’s not freely given, is it?  You take.  The people you kill don’t want to die.  Especially not like that.  And you—I mean, we—” he frowned, “we aren’t natural.  Killing other people isn’t natural, Eli.  It’s not part of some cosmic ‘scheme of creation.’  God says you shouldn’t kill people.  And . . . that’s what I’m most afraid of.  I don’t want to kill or hurt anyone.”

Eli sighed.  “I know that, Oskar.  But I didn’t ask to be what I am.  And you,” she looked away, “didn’t ask for it, either.”  But we’re still walking around the earth.  We’re still part of what God created.  And so, to the extent we’re able, we’ve got to obey His laws, just like everyone else.”

Oskar looked at her long and hard.  “What do you mean?  How can we possibly do that?”

She took his hand and squeezed it.  “Remember the night you came back to my apartment?  After you wanted to have a pact with me?  And you asked me if I was a vampire.  And I told you: that I drink blood to live; but I’m not that.”

 “Yes.  You told me that you kill because you have to.  Because you want to live, just like everyone else.”

“Right.  But there’s more to it than that, Oskar.  A lot more.  Just because I have this condition, doesn’t mean I have to be a selfish jerk.  It doesn’t mean I must be deliberately cruel to people.  It doesn’t mean that I can just wander around, creating more vampires whenever I want.  You don’t see the lions do that, do you?  They don’t go around maiming and slaughtering for no good reason.  They take what they need, and they leave the rest alone.  Well, that’s how I see things, too.  I do what I need to survive.  But no more.

And you have to understand this.  Because if you don’t, and you act as though there are no rules, you’ll be . . . unhappy forever.  You’ll be miserable, and soon enough you’ll just be some kind of animal.  And I want you, to the extent you can, to be happy—not like that.”

Oskar looked directly at her.  “I will always be happy . . . as long as I’m with you.”

“But you might not always be with me, Oskar.  I might die tomorrow—you never know.  I don’t want to think about it, but it could happen.  So you have to realize that you’ve still got to be the best person you can be, even though you are what you are.  And if you do that, even though people might hate you, and fear you, and try to kill you, you’ll still know, in your heart, that you’re a good person.  And knowing that can bring you happiness, or at least, some kind of—acceptance.  Even if I drop dead, or we somehow become separated.”

Oskar was quiet for awhile.  Then he spoke.  “But you just said that you hated your life.  That you hated being you.  So this hasn’t really worked for you, has it?”

Eli looked at him, then touched his freshly healed cheek.  “I never said it was easy.  But it’s been easier--since I fell in love with you.”

More next week

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