A/N: Intolerant language ahead. It’s showing the (admittedly low) character of the people using it, not my personal opinions towards anyone, human or vamp. And there is some REAL Swedish instead of italicized Swedish this time, with translations at the bottom since those sections are short. Thanks for reading! XOXO
Chapter 1: Stripped
There was nothing. Emptiness, a void, a hollowness so complete that it made me feel as if I were physically teetering on the edge of a cliff above a bottomless chasm.
I tried to steady myself, my body feeling awkward and strange. As I tried to regain my balance, I became aware that my fangs were down (Wait — I had fangs?) and I felt compelled to retract them, as if by some outside force.
I was in a large, dark room that smelled of incense and ozone and seemed to be lit only by clusters of candles. Several feet away, a group of figures – men and women, light and dark, young and older – were huddled tensely together, flanking a middle-aged woman with chestnut hair who was seemed to pulsate with some unseen power.
They were staring at me, looking as shocked and bewildered as I felt.
As I looked around at the ring of taut, anxious faces, trying to remember what had just happened and why I felt so disoriented, I intuitively knew one thing: these people were a threat to me. No matter how mundane and unintimidating they might appear on the surface, they could do something terrible to me, something terrifying and destructive.
And while I still wasn’t even sure what I had lost (memory, yes; understanding of who I was, yes; a vague something that had to do with the feeling of home, yes yes yes), I had not lost my survival instinct.
So I ran.
I didn’t stop until I was several blocks away from the room, and even then, I ducked into a dark doorway to hide while I checked to see if I had been followed. I was relieved to see that I had not; although now that I was standing quietly it hit me how unlikely it would have been, given the speed at which I had just moved.
I was fast.
While my mind may not have remembered my ability to speed, it had not seemed strange to my body. My sudden acceleration had felt natural and ordinary, as if my muscles could rely on their own memory of what to do to move me so quickly.
I filed my speeding ability away for later consideration.
I cautiously looked out of the doorway. I appeared to be in the doorway of a closed shop on some kind of city street. There didn’t seem to be many people on the street at the moment, perhaps because of rain that must have passed recently, to judge by the wet pavement.
As I ventured out onto the sidewalk, I realized I had no idea which way to go. Where was my home? Or where would I find someone who knew me?
I didn’t belong anywhere.
I felt my throat tighten and tried to remain calm. What to do? What to do next? I literally couldn’t think further than the next movement of my body.
I closed my eyes and tried to feel what I should do, trying to trust my instincts. They were all I had left.
That’s when I felt something unexpected: tiny, subtle ticklings inside me that left impressions of direction and feeling. Emotions of fear, irritation and boredom were all pressing gently at me in distinctly varying pressures and patterns, each strand of information somehow bearing a unique signature. Overlying each swell of emotion was a sense of the physical direction from which the impulse had come, like some kind of homing beacon signaling regularly.
I felt a jolt of panic. Was this part of whatever the circle of hostile strangers had done to me? Why else would I feel emotions which were not my own?
My eyes flew open and realized I had been standing motionless in the street for several seconds, lost in the bizarre internal sensations. Suddenly conscious of the vulnerability of my position, I used my speed to find a more sheltered space, a service alley that ran behind more businesses.
Ahead of me I could hear raucous whooping and shouting, sounds that I identified as the noise of drunken men. As I drew closer, I saw that there were three men standing outside the back door of a bar (reminding me of something, but still unfamiliar). Pouring out into the darkness from inside the bar, I could hear some kind of twangy music that I somehow knew was “country.” (Which country?)
One of the men was nearly my height, although considerably heavier. Another was a bit shorter, but with a thick, muscular neck and a massive trunk that told me he could hold his own in a fight. The third man was smaller than the other two, with the scrawny build of someone who regularly ingested too many substances bad for the body. All were dressed in scuffed jeans, with the really big man wearing a plaid flannel shirt, the husky one wearing a disreputable-looking t-shirt, and the slight one both a t-shirt and a flannel shirt.
The motley group were now howling along with the tune pouring out of the tavern, sipping off of dark bottles I identified as beer.
The closer I came, the better I could smell the alcohol in their systems, even from several yards away. Either they were the most intoxicated humans I had ever met or I had an extraordinary sense of smell to go with my super speed.
A little wary because of their drunkenness, I was reluctant to approach them. Still, these were the first people I had seen besides the group of threatening strangers. Maybe they could at least tell me where I was. I was still feeling befuddled and a little unsteady, and I felt an increasing desperation to get to someplace secure where I could take stock and come back to myself.
“Ursäkta,” I began hesitantly in my native tongue. “Jag är vilse. Kan ni säga mig var jag är?”
The biggest one turned and narrowed his bleary eyes at me. “Huh?”
“Jag är vilse. Kan ni säga mig var jag är?” I repeated more loudly. The music from inside the bar was loud; maybe they hadn’t heard what I said.
“What the fuck language is that queer speaking?” mumbled the smallest one.
“Queeeeeeeer language,” bawled the big one. “Check out the jacket on that motherfucker. That just says faggot all over, don’t it?” He took a sip of his beer and eyed me. “You lost, faggot?”
I understood they were speaking English and I realized I knew it as well. I glanced down at my clothes: black leather jeans, a low-cut tank top, quilted black leather jacket, boots, and a chain around my neck. Definitely not the local style of dress, to judge from these men. At least not in this neighborhood. “Yes, I am lost,” I answered calmly, hoping not to escalate the situation if I could get the information I wanted. I knew I was fast, but I had no idea if I had any unusual physical strength, and while the one man was small, the other two more than made up for him in size and power. Three on one didn’t seem like good odds in my favor. “Can you tell me where I am? What city?”
The middle-sized one snorted. “How much that sum-bitch have that he don’t know where he is?” he commented to his buddies, not bothering to answer my question.
“Maybe he’s not from around here,” said the big one, looking me up and down. “Looks like one of them Eu-ro-pee-ans to me. You a Eu-ro-pee-an, pretty boy? Or just a pussy?”
The little one wheezed with drunken laughter. “He must be lost if he’s down in this part of town in that get up. Although those boots ain’t half bad. Saw a pair like that down in Dallas once, cost a few hundred dollars.” He nudged at his oversized friend. “Looks like they might fit you, Pete.”
The big man looked down at my feet and smirked. “Yeah, I got me some big feet. Goes with my big dick.” He gave me toothy grin. “Although you better not come near that, queer boy, or I’ll kick your ass.” He leaned in closer to me, the sour reek of his beer blowing into my face. “Although I may do that anyhow, you foreign piece of shit.” He spat at the ground. “Take off your boots.”
“W-What?” I stammered, confused.
“Take off your mother-fucking boots,” snapped Pete.
“Wonder what else he has on him?” muttered the thick-necked one. “May be faggy looking, but that jacket’s expensive. You got a nice cell phone in one of them pockets, Euroboy? Maybe one of them I-phones?”
The big one whooped and then grabbed me roughly. “Hey, let’s take a look at what kind of fancy shit Eu-ro-pee-ans carry in their pockets.” Before I knew it, he had yanked at my jacket and started pulling the sleeves down my arms behind me.
My reaction was instinctual: I tore myself out of his hands, whirled, grabbed him by the throat and dropped my fangs with a growl.
“Holy fuck, it’s a fanger!” cried the small one, turning and running.
The big one –Pete— was continuing to fight against me and I was stunned when he suddenly sprayed something in my face that burned like acid. “Take that, you blood sucker! Colloidal silver in a can, gonna burn your motherfucking vampire eyes out!”
Shit, he was right; suddenly I couldn’t see. I wasn’t entirely blinded, but my vision was distinctly blurred enough that I couldn’t see what was happening around me.
I reeled backwards, away from the stinging spray, only to be hit by even worse pain as a long silver chain suddenly wrapped around my neck from behind in a choke hold. I felt my body begin to sink to the ground as the beefy one pulled the silver against my bare skin. At such close contact, I could smell nicotine leeching out of his pores and hear his jaws quietly working at what I assumed was some kind of chaw.
“Bobby! Bobby, get your ass back here, ya moron. We got silver on him, he can’t hurt us,” bellowed Pete at the scrawny one, who sounded as if he had come to a standstill further down the alley. “Get his boots,” the big man ordered. “Then check his pockets for anything else this foreign fuck has that might be worth having.”
The little one approached cautiously, but apparently reassured by the sight of me half-curled on the ground and groaning, felt secure enough to tug the boots off my feet, leaving them bare. He then quickly frisked my pants pockets, batting my weakened hands away, before pulling out a wallet from a back pocket and a cell phone from the front right. “Aw, shit, man, this ain’t no I-phone,” he whined. “Ya still want it, Harlan?”
From behind me, I could feel the one holding the chain strain over me, presumably to examine my phone. “Yeah, what the hell, man, might be able to use me an extra phone for this and that. Hang onto it for me, though, Bobby. I kinda got my hands full here.” He jerked at the silver chain on my neck, digging it into my flesh, and I moaned at the pain.
Bobby blurted, “Hey, lookee here what we got in the wallet!” I could barely see his body moving as he opened up the leather pouch to flash a thick wad of bills. “Looks like we are goin’ to par-tay some more tonight! Vamp-boy can pick up one hell of a tab with this.”
Pete wrestled me out of my leather jacket roughly. I could feel one shoulder of my tank top tearing in the process. “Hey, Bobby, this looks like it will fit you, if you don’t think it’s too giiiiiiirrrrrrrly.” He tossed my coat to the thin one, who I could hear handling the leather as he turned it this way and that.
“What the fuck, man? What kind of jacket don’t have pockets in it?” Bobby complained.
“Eurofag coats, I guess,” snorted the big man. He squatted down beside me as Harlan continued to hold me down in the silver chain. “Now listen here, fanger. We don’t cotton to vampires here in Shreveport, at least not in this part of the city. We’re going to take your shit and you are not going to do jack shit about it because we are letting your dumb European ass live here in the fine U.S. of A. instead of sticking a pointy piece of wood through your chest. Take it or leave it.”
Harlan snapped the chain up tautly. “Yeah, fanger, what you say? We gonna walk away peaceful like or do we need to finish this a different way? Your call.” He spit something to the ground behind me.
As I lay there on the wet and dirty pavement, now half-naked and half-blinded by the colloidal silver in my eyes, I didn’t feel I had much choice.
“Take…what…you…want,” I croaked. “I won’t follow you.” I didn’t think I could follow them in the state I was now in, so it wasn’t much of a promise, but I was willing to take whatever chance I had to avoid a stake coming at me unseen.
“Then we’re good then.” I heard Peter stand up. “Let him go, Harlan, and let’s get the hell out of here in case he is a lying dick like that Edgington shit.” Although the chain around my neck finally loosened, I heard a fumbling noise and then suddenly what I identified by scent as my own boot struck me across the mouth and in the ribs in rapid succession. As I groaned and spit blood out onto the ground, I heard all three men sprint down the alley, whooping as gleefully as they had been when I first came upon them.
The music was still pumping out of the back door of the bar. I rolled upwards, now beginning to see at least patterns of light and darkness, and blundered my way to a wall on the far side of the alley, leaning against it as I limped away.
Vampire. I was a vampire.
At least I had gotten that out of the otherwise miserable encounter.
I didn’t feel safe half-dressed on the streets of what I now knew was Shreveport, so I kept to the shadows. I was a little paranoid about using my ability to speed until I could see decently again, so I just moved as quickly and quietly as I could. It was a little slow at first, but as I kept moving, I noticed that my vision was improving, as was the sting of where the silver had been against my neck. Somewhere along the way, I rid myself of the now useless tank top that had been half-hanging from my chest.
As I skulked along in the dark, I thought about where I should go. Eventually the sun would rise, and the understanding that I was a vampire brought with it an intuitive but sure knowledge that I would need to be somewhere dark and safe before the sun’s rays crept over the horizon. Some instinct told me that I would be best off underground, under the dirt if necessary. The paved streets of Shreveport were not going to offer me anywhere to go to ground; it would probably be best to go outside the city, out into the rural darkness where I could find some dirt to burrow under before dawn.
By time I reached that decision, I realized that I could see normally again and that my injuries seemed to have faded, even the silvered area on my neck. Super healing ability? Handy. Very handy.
As soon as I felt recuperated enough to do it, I vamp sped into the dark, moving away from the city lights. I didn’t slow down until I found a place where the lights were fewer and farther between and the landscape was devoid of anything but trees. At that point, I began to walk, suddenly aware that I was not only physically tired, but emotionally drained.
I had been plodding along, trying to decide how far I should go into the countryside in order to be safe from people when I felt it.
One of the mysterious tingling sensations I had been ignoring most of the evening was getting stronger. It felt as if someone (angry, frustrated) was coming closer to me.
I froze for a second, trying to decide what I should do. I didn’t know the meaning of the streams of emotional information I was experiencing. While it could be someone who knew me and could tell me what had happened, who I was, it could also be whoever had done this to me.
I began to move again, slowly, focused on the steady increase of the sensation as it drew nearer, willing myself not to panic and run, at least until I knew whether it was a friend or a foe. In the distance, I could hear a car approaching and as it drew closer, so did the pulse of feelings. As the rumble of the tires came up behind me, I heard the vehicle slow down. Shit. Any doubt I had that the emotional waves were coming from the car vanished. I could feel the signal as it became less diffused and clearer. Still anger, frustration, but with a new note of confusion.
And now the car was pulling up beside me. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I kept moving as if minding my own business, hoping that if Anger/ Frustration was someone out to hurt me, they would reveal it quickly and I could successfully sprint away.
“Eric?” The voice was female.
I glanced at the car, which was now creeping along at my walking pace. It was small, yellow, older, and being driven by a young woman with her blonde hair pulled back on her neck. From what I could see from the road, she seemed to be dressed casually in a t-shirt with a logo and a plain black sweater.
She didn’t look that threatening, but neither had the members of that circle, and look what they had done to me.
“Eric!” she said more insistently. I tried to ignore her, wary about what her intentions were, but she called out my name again. “Eric!” I could feel the feeling of her confusion begin to overwhelm the anger and frustration. She also didn’t seem like she was going to give up, so I stopped.
“Who are you?” I asked cautiously. And why am I feeling your feelings?
“It’s me, Sookie,” she answered.
The name was an unusual one and unfamiliar. “Who?”
The blonde looked and felt irritated. “You know me.”
I made a good faith effort to look into my mind again and see if she seemed at all familiar, but there was nothing there beyond the negative tangle of her emotions. Since I had identified her as the source of all the anger and frustration that had been prodding at me all evening, I decided that if I did know her, the relationship probably wasn’t a friendly one. Maybe she had been the one who had done this to me.
“No—no, I don’t,” I stammered out. It was true in the immediate, factual sense, as I did not recognize her, but I almost hoped it was the greater truth as well, based on how she seemed to feel about me. The last thing I needed after the two encounters I had already had tonight was another one with someone else angry at me.
I felt her genuine surprise at my answer. She was puzzled as to why I did not recognize her, which told me that she was not the source of my predicament. Maybe despite the anger, she was not a threat towards me, then. I turned to continue on my way. I had to find somewhere safe.
However, I had only taken a step or two when I noticed something, an amazing fragrance on the night air. And it seemed to be coming from her.
In confusion, I turned towards the car and drew in a deep breath to catch the intoxicating scent. I had no memories to associate with it, but it evoked something in me, feelings of home and happiness and all the good things in life. I hungrily sucked the sweet air in again, my brow wrinkling as I tried to decipher why her smell was so different from the limited number of other people I had smelled tonight. No one else had smelled like this, I was sure of it.
She had noticed my scenting the wind and I felt a sudden tremor of anxiety pass through her. Unable to contain my curiosity, I frowned at her and asked, “Why do you smell so good?”
And the anger and frustration were back in full force. “You know perfectly well why I smell the way I smell,” she said sharply.
I stepped a little closer to the car as I sniffed at the air again, trying to articulate what was so appealing. “Like wheat…and honey…and sunlight,” I observed slowly. I felt a sensual swell of excitement sweep through my body. Not merely sexual, although that was definitely a part of it, but truly sensual, evoking desires to investigate this mysterious woman with all of my senses – smell, touch, taste, sight and hearing, as well as whatever one called the mystifying emotional connection I had with her.
My fangs popped out of my mouth, involuntarily. And they were long.
They also made her jump with fright.
“Eric, I am not in the mood!” the blonde snapped. Although her tone was commanding, I could feel the spike of her fear.
“What are you?” I asked, baffled by not only her unique scent but my intensely aroused reaction to it. I started to lean into her open car window to sniff again (or just to be closer to her), but the car was suddenly accelerating away from me, taking her with it.
I watched as she sped away from me down the road, disappointed that she had run from me. I was intrigued, definitely the first positive feeling I had experienced since waking up facing that circle of hostile faces earlier in the evening.
She didn’t get very far before she stopped the car. I felt her relief mingle with my own and used my vamp speed to approach the car again, anxious to talk to her. And smell her.
And maybe do some other things with her, although I didn’t let my thoughts go very far in that direction. Having no memory of who I was acted as somewhat of a damper on my excitement, and I knew I didn’t want to scare her any more than I already had. Somehow, having found someone who seemed to know me made me feel less lost. If she bolted again, I’d be alone again.
Unfortunately, when I leaned in through the driver’s side window, I must have moved too close, too quickly, as she let out a little scream and scrambled madly over the gearshift to escape out the passenger door. She took off at a dead run into the dark.
It was the first time I had seen all of her and I liked what I saw: she was petite but shapely, with an amazing backside that was encased in nothing more than a pair of dark short-shorts. Her legs were tanned and bare down to a pair of tennis shoes that were now pounding away up a path leading further into the park.
As she sprinted away from me, I couldn’t help but smile at the view. And at the fact that I if I wanted to talk to her, I was going to have to catch up to her first. It must have been a vampire thing because the thought of chasing her was in itself arousing, although I didn’t intend to harm her when I caught her. If I could feel her feelings, I wondered if she felt mine as well.
I used my speed to whoosh right past her and stop facing her, careful to stand in an unthreatening manner. She slid to a halt before she could collide with me, and I saw –and felt – as she shook her head in exasperation. Before I could process what she was about to do, she drew her fist back and clobbered my nose with a surprising amount of strength.
“I am not your fucking dinner!” she spat out furiously.
She thought I meant to eat her? “What’d you do that for?” I asked in confusion as I felt what was clearly my now-broken nose. I had expected her to realize I meant her no harm through our linked emotions. I guess it didn’t work that way. Maybe it was a one-way connection?
She shot me a look of disbelief as she crossed her arms in front of her angrily.
“You broke my nose!” I pointed out.
“Oh, please,” she scoffed. “It’ll heal in five minutes. You’re a vampire.”
Maybe she really did know me, if she knew something about me that I had only recently discovered myself.
I was now confident that she had had nothing to do with what had happened to me. She may be angry and exasperated with me (Why?) but her malice did not extend to causing whatever had wiped away my selfhood. She was obviously ignorant about what was wrong with me.
In that moment, I decided to trust her with the truth. Maybe she could help me figure out what had happened to me.
I wouldn’t be alone in this nightmare that I had woken to tonight.
“I know I’m a vampire, Snookie—” I said passionately, for the first time letting my own frustration with the situation flow.
“It’s ‘Sookie’!” she interjected impatiently.
“I know what I am!” She wasn’t listening to me and it was frustrating. If she really did know me, I wondered if our “normal” interactions were this contentious.
Realizing that my voice had risen to a shout, I tamped down on my emotions. There was no need to take my aggravation out on her.
I gathered myself together and met her annoyed gaze earnestly. “I just don’t know who I am,” I explained in a low voice.
Once more, I felt her surprise, although she recovered quickly. “Okay,” she said in a business-like tone, finally dropping her arms from where they had been crossed in front of her chest. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
She was going to help me.
I felt a small bit of the tension I had been holding in for the past few hours slip away. I wasn’t alone in this.
“I don’t know,” I said vehemently.
I felt a pang of concern from Sookie and I realized I was getting upset again. “I don’t know,” I repeated more calmly. I was afraid the intensity of my emotions would frighten her again. I thought back to the dark room full of people and candlelight. For some reason, the mental picture of the room in my head reminded me of something else. “The sea, maybe. Home,” I finally said.
I could hear the wistfulness in my own voice and I felt Sookie startle. I seemed to be constantly surprising her, which made me wonder how well we knew one another.
Trying to follow the fragile visions in my memory, I let my mind drift back. For some reason, the images that came to mind were of me frolicking beside an ocean, my bare feet striking the wet sand as I felt the wind at my back. “Den våta sanden mellan mina tår. Vinden mot mina skulderblad.”
I was so lost in the cobweb of a memory that I hadn’t even realized I had lapsed into my native tongue until Sookie reminded me sharply. “Eric, focus!”
The mental picture in my mind had switched back to that dark room and things were starting to come back. “En cirkel,” I blurted out hesitantly at first, then more forcefully as the details became clearer in my head. “En cirkel.” I could hear the circle of people chanting in my mind and picture the chestnut-haired woman in the center of the group. “Hennes ögon. Hennes ögon, hennes kalla, tomma ögon.”
Sookie, unable to understand my words, was losing patience with me. “English!” she snapped.
“Her eyes. Her cold, empty eyes,” I translated for her, hurriedly. I licked my lips as I grasped hold of the memory and struggled to tease out more information from it before it vanished. “They were reaching into me. Emptying me.”
“Okaaaay,” Sookie said warily.
I could see the chestnut-haired woman in my mind, her face distorted at first by what I thought was a trick of the candlelight. There had been flashes of something – no, someone else, superimposed on her visage. A younger, more beautiful face with eyes that burned into me. “And it was her –” I struggled to explain what I had felt. “—but it wasn’t her.”
Sookie was listening intently now. “She was in a circle. Chanting,” I continued. “Then, uh – everything I was –” I paused, almost unable to get the words out as I relived the pain of having my selfhood stripped away from me. “—was taken from me.”
I felt the wave of Sookie’s compassion swell towards me, but she quickly suppressed it. I guess I was not the only one who was uncertain how readily to express feelings.
I anxiously waited to see what she decided to do with the information I had just shared with her. I was suddenly aware how completely my fate was in her hands. I had nothing. I was nothing. And she was the only person who hadn’t actively sought to hurt me that night. If I overlooked the broken nose, anyhow.
“Okay,” Sookie finally said in a more gentle voice than she had used previously. “I’ll help you deal with this. But there are some ground rules that do not get broken, or you are on your own.” She looked me sternly in the eye and I felt the fierceness with which she meant what she said. “You do not touch me. And you most certainly do not bite me.” Her delicate chin thrust out as if daring me to argue with her.
I stared at her. I thought back to how the sight and smell of her had stirred me and I felt a sad disappointment that my fleeting dream of exploring what I expected to be the wonders of her would be so quickly and brusquely dismissed.
She must have read the regret on my face and I felt what was now the familiar flash of her exasperation. “Oh, forget it,” she snarled before turning to stalk away from me.
I reluctantly let the wisps of my hopeful fantasy go and embraced what she would give me, which was her help.
“Jag svär,” I said earnestly.
”Eric—” she began impatiently.
”I swear it,” I repeated firmly. Even without my memories, I felt the solemnity of the spoken vow. I would not break it so long as it was what she asked of me. I couldn’t entirely understand how a woman who was clearly angry at me more often than not and afraid of me as well would be willing to do this for me. I felt deep gratitude that she was prepared to overlook whatever it was that stood between us and help me when I was so vulnerable. After the antagonism of the other humans I had met that night, her generosity despite what was clearly a strained relationship between us seemed wondrous.
Sookie sighed in resignation and nodded towards her car. “Well, let’s go then.”
As we started walking toward the car, I realized how much I towered over her tiny figure. Anxious to minimize any unintended sense of menace towards her, I leaned over towards her small frame, trying to compact my large body into something less threatening, and said sincerely, “I am grateful for this.”
“Whatever.” She shrugged negligently in response.
Whatever the problems of our normal relationship – and I knew that they existed based on how she reacted to me – we had established some sort of truce. I followed my compact, sweet-smelling rescuer to her tiny car.
A/N: Swedish translations:
”Vad fan?” = ”What the hell/what the fuck?”
“Ursäkta. Jag är vilse. Kan ni säga mig var jag är?” = “Excuse me, I’m lost. Can you tell me where I am?”
“Den våta sanden mellan mina tår. Vinden mot mina skulderblad.” = “The wet sand between my toes. The wind against my shoulder blades.”
I know Eric’s attackers are stereotypical redneck bigots, but again I went with the “easy” explanation of how he lost everything but those fine leather jeans.
This story will not update daily like the previous one since it is still a work in progress, but I will try to update it about once a week. Thanks for reading!