Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Legend of NightShade

Before I left New York, there were rumors. There are always rumors, of course, in the Big City—alligators in the sewers and whatnot, but these were specific and they were consistent. A superhero, they called it. Not just some nutjob vigilante, but someone with actual powers. There are levels to believing a rumor. “it’s not powers,” my boyfriend, the “real” journalist, said. “If it’s happening at all, it’s a guy in a suit with elaborate gadgetry. If I were you—or if I believed it at all, which I don’t—I’d start looking into really rich orphans.”

But there was no mistaking it. “I’m talling you, mom,” said one thug in police questioning, “I could feel motherfucker’s hand on my threat even though he’s at the end of the motherfuckin’ alley. Motherfucker picked me up four feet off the motherfucking ground, threw me into the mutherfucking wall. I’m telling you, that motherfucker is real!”

So how should we account for this oedipal demigod?

He stood accused of Telekinesis, but of something else, too.

Before he came, there were whispers. Every windless (though admittedly some of them only when pressed) remarked that just before the “creature” appeared, they heard whispers that seemed to be coming from inside their own skull. “Who’s there?” they might say, or “The fuck is happening to me?” and in the case of violent crimes, usually this distracted them enough for their (intended) victims to get away.

Then NightShade would get to work.

That’s what they called him. He’d sweep in “like a shadow in the night”—all anyone ever saw was his silhouette against slightly-lighter backdrops. It was fitting because he did act like a poison for the people he attacked.

The problem was, not all of his victims were guilty.

I guess that’s really the issue with every vigilante, whether or not they have “superpowers”—there’s supposed to be due process, protections for the innocent, but this NightShade isn’t subject to any of that.

It wasn’t long before the NYPD came up with a task force to track down this vigilante, but of course that didn’t work—it couldn’t possibly. NightShade has superpowers, for crying out loud, and apparently knows very well how to use them. None of the cops were ever able to even get close to him. How can you exert authority over something you can’t destroy? Or even hurt? And so the reign of terror continues. Last week, apparently, a young father was flung around an alleyway and strung up by his ankles to dangle from a fire escape, apparently just for yelling at his kid for misbehaving. Even if that was a crime, what kind of punishment is that? I managed to pull some strings and get hold of the transcripts of the report. The young father was one of the few who said he could actually make out some of the whispers he heard beforehand. Words like “trafficking”, “kidnapping”, and finally words like “molest”. I’m not going to mention the guy’s name, out of privacy and such (though it’s remarkable how few news outlets are respecting that) now that he’s essentially been accused of child abduction.

Here’s what really bothers me, though—well, two things: first of all, of course, if he’s such a nutjob, how are we ever going to catch him or even negotiate with him? But perhaps more importantly, at least the one that really strikes me: these whispers. I mean, he’s obviously telepathic… how is he getting things wrong? How is he making any mistakes? I mean, clearly he’s out to clean up the streets… is it possible he knows something we don’t about these people who are supposedly innocent?

I’m not saying we should trust NightShade blindly and crown him king or anything weird like that—at the very least his methods are cruel and unusual.

But what if he’s right?

A Glass House

I walk the platform, pretending to be waiting for you.
What am I doing here?
I know you’re not expecting me
But I have places to be and I’d rather be here waiting for you.

There’s a rumbling in the ground,
a persistent thunder,
far away but getting closer.
Almost there.
In anticipation, I close my eyes.

I wake up in a room.
A simple room.
With simple walls and ceiling,
made of glass.
It’s night outside–this simple room feels cold and lonely.

But I am not alone.
I open my eyes to fields of stars ad infinitum,
So far away–why need they be so far away?

And then the doors open and you appear,
startled, coy. You smile.
The sun has risen and who needs those stars anyway.
Can I walk you the rest of the way?

Light fills up my little room,
revealing crannied nooks I’d never seen or suspected.
This tiny space seems so much bigger now, in the light,
seems to contain much more than darkness.

But with this revelation, an apocalypse.

Heat fills me up, bounces off the walls
even as they twinkle and gleam,
helpless to leave this place
and even after we get where you’re going and part ways
(not forever, there is room to recess)
the heat is comfortable enough
I do not need the stars.
Not really.

Time passes and with every glance
passed back and forth,
more heat glitters off my room.
It’s radiant. And I can’t get out.
I’m melting.
Even when you aren’t there, I can’t stand it.
Eating is a foreign language and sleep an enemy
and I can’t see the stars through the fog
in my sauna,
but only your brilliance shines through,
distorted by my pain.

I have to get out.
You have to release me.
There are stones at my feet. But what will they do to me?
They will break the glass, let the cool air
wash over me, release all this tension. But will that be enough?
Will it stop at that wall, or will the cracks in the glass
bring the house down around me?
Will I ever see you again?
Will we be able to talk,
as we have, as we do,
if I cast this first stone?

Let it fall, I scream, echoing off the glass walls.
Let it fall all around me
Let it fall on top of me
If the price of feeling the cool breezes again
Is being battered by falling glass,
Then let the shards of self-knowledge mar my hide
and winter take me
If I can only first speak my heart a while.


Do you ever imagine what it would be like to live in a world without pain? I bet you have. In fact, at times when you aren’t in pain, I bet you have trouble even imagining it, just like how when you’re sick, it’s hard to remember or imagine a time when you didn’t feel heavy and drowsy, when your nose wasn’t stuffed up. You try to imagine future conversations with the guy (or girl, I guess) that you like and you can’t imagine actually feeling well.

Have you ever tried to imagine what it would be like to lose a limb? A pane of glass crashing through bone, shredding through flesh right there on your arm—do you imagine pain? I don’t. I can picture the sensation maybe like a papercut and I know, intellectually, damn that’s gotta hurt, and it creeps me out even to the point of wincing, but can I really conjure up the pain? It isn’t there. Not for me.

“Stop it,” Declan instructs his band-mate, the one he’s in love witht, the one with the girlfriend who’s bad for her, the one who’s sitting across from him picking at the flesh of her cuticles with a needle. “Hey,” he says.

She looks away, puts the needle carefully in the pen-case she brought to this session.

“Why do you do that?” Declan asks sincerely.

“I don’t know,” she answers honestly. Because she doesn’t. She doesn’t know. She had some idea, but ideas count for shit. You can’t even copyright them.

Some day, they’ll talk about this. Some day, she’ll tell him about her past and her relationship to pain and how, in the fucked-up way of abused minds, piercing her own skin makes her feel safe, like nailbiters taking control or anorexics taking ownership of their own bodies.

“It’s my pain,” she’ll tell him, “my choice.” But she’s not there yet.

Then there’s Lucy McDermott.

I haven’t talked a lot about Lucy. Trust me, I’ll get there. She gets lost in the shuffle a bit when it comes to middle school—the early years, at least. Between Kayle and Trevor and Isabella, Lucy wasn’t exactly at the top of my friends list, but I actually probably enjoyed her the most. Trevor was a boy and Isabella was a bitch and Kayla—I mean, I liked her, but she could be a bit of a downer. Lucy seemed fun, first and foremost.

Kinda makes you wonder.

One day, I had her over—I think Kayla was there, too, but not really there, at least not when I walked in on Lucy in our bathroom with a razorblade. Her cuts were shallow and entirely the wrong place to be killing herself, or even pretending to, so that’s a plus, but it still freaked me the fuck out. How had I not seen it coming?

“I’m sorry,” she said, dropping the razor-blade, mortified. “I thought I—“

What? That she’d locked the door? Because obviously that was a huge priority for me, right?

“Why do you do it?” It wasn’t until way later that I worked up the courage to ask her, and when I did, I can’t tell you how disappointed I was.

“I’m in love with your brother,” she confessed to me, and then spent the better part of five minutes expanding on that certain je ne sais quoi of Jasper Llywelyn. “But does he even see me?” she concluded with a mope. “I mean, does he even know who I am?”

There was nothing original about Lucy’s pain. It wasn’t fundamental or the stuff of great drama or tragedy. It was her pain, but it wasn’t unique.

Does that make it less painful? Does knowing other people have more pain make the pain go away?

“You’re all so…” She can’t even express it. Not in words. Not out loud. She’s jealous of our pain. She feels left out. She’s sensed all of our secrets for a while now and desperately wanted a secret of her own. Something that could bind her to us.

That is the true meaning of Angst. A sense that there isn’t enough pain in the world. You have to make some extra for yourself. It’s a phantom pain in limbs that are still there but feel like they shouldn’t be. Why can’t we get over it? Because there is nothing to get over.


“Mummy,” the officer seems to say as he reaches up to her, “can I have some more?”

There is a hole where his mouth used to be. You think of the mouth as a hole, but a door is only a door until it’s ripped off its hinges, and then it’s a hole in the wall.

He doesn’t claw for her. He isn’t trying to snatch or to hurt—none of them are. They aren’t reaching to take, they’re reaching to be given. That’s how she knows they need her as a mother, not as a meal.

Not all of them raise their hands to her but perhaps that is only because not all of them have hands anymore. Or arms. Or even faces. And yet hundreds of them here in this tomb that was a tube station not twenty minutes ago, reach out for her, as a savior, as a mummy.

Until she tells them to stop.

Obedient, they turn away and she imagines them all as showing a sense of shame in the way they look off, like a young man honorable enough to realize his advances have been unwelcome, and to mercifully stop. But she knows better. She knows there is no emotion in any of these reanimated corpses. Their hearts no longer beat, the holes their heads no longer draw breath, their tearducts—those that have them still—have run dry. She is the only one here still feeling anything and the feelings she has, echoing through the chamber out the tunnels from longer ago than she cares to remember, are making her see things, are projecting onto these corpses like the toys of a child whose parents are fighting again.

Why is she doing this? What does she have to gain?

Soon they will come for her. They will find a way, and why shouldn’t they? She never wanted this to happen, either. She has wrought too much rot in this brave new world, so let the crows come to claim her. But now, in this one shining moment before she unravels, let her have this, let her feel this need from these creatures to whom she’s given life. Before they come for her and she loses this feeling again, let them reach for their mummy.

Gothic Romance

DARRYL: Is there something wrong with me? Like, physically? I mean, I know I’m not the most attractive guy on campus, but I mean, shit, even ugly people manage to get dates, right? Am I too… is there something about me that turns girls off? Can they see some kind of sign flashing over my head that says “do not date this man!”? Tell me, please, I wanna know.

RACHEL: OK, first of all, the girls you keep crushing on are all stunningly gorgeous, congratulations, you have excellent taste. Second, you’re not that bad yourself. So maybe… stop whining. Which brings us to, thirdly, stop having conversations like this with girls, it’s unattractive, particularly stop having conversations like this with me, which brings us to number I’ve lost count–


RACHEL: Thank you, four, thank you. Number four, you little crybaby, stop bitching to me about you can’t get laid, you could’ve had me freshman year.

DARRYL: Wait, what?

RACHEL: O-ho. You don’t remember this? Let me just jog that memory for you there, sport. I was a girl, you were a boy, we were at a party, everyone else was hooking up, I was all the fuck over you, you whiny little bitch, but no, I wasn’t the skinny little dirty redhead whore you had a thing for. You wanted her. I wanted you. She wanted Jeffrey, you remember that party?


RACHEL: You remember that, don’t you? If I’d’ve had my hand on your penis, I couldn’t’ve been more explicit, but you wouldn’t give me the time of day. Ask me how I know you’re not a boobsman.

DARRYL: I am a boobs man!

RACHEL: Oh, please.

DARRYL: You wanted to date me?

RACHEL: More importantly, I wanted you to fuck me.

DARRYL: Oh. Well, then what are we waiting for?

RACHEL: Not so fast there, tiger. That’s part of what sucks about being a woman. Can’t really talk to a guy about your feelings until you’re over him. Besides, you don’t want me. If you did… you don’t want me, Darryl. I ain’t the girl for you.

DARRYL: You’re right. I don’t have those feelings for you–

RACHEL: Not what I meant.


RACHEL: Two years ago, Darryl, I was ready to wear you like a coat every day, and to Church on Sunday. I thought you were just the hottest piece of ass I could lay my hands on, but I knew you weren’t for me. I wanted you for sex. But you were looking for love. Probably shouldn’t’ve been, but… But now the tables have turned. The last two years, man, I been round the block! And you haven’t. Forget love, Darryl, you gots to get laid. Pronto. And me? I gotta stop letting guys treat me like that.

DARRYL: So let me see if I get this straight. You’re telling me to do to other girls exactly what you want other guys not to do to you?

RACHEL: Way of the world, kid.

DARRYL: Just as long as we’re clear on that.

Appropriate Behavior

MARK: Close the door, please.

CAITLIN: Do I have to?

MARK: Please. Have a seat.

CAITLIN: So what’s this about?

MARK: I just wanted to see how you were doing.


MARK: Well, I know you’ve been going through some life changes. Moving can be stressful.

CAITLIN: Did you notice my life-changes by the quality of my work?


CAITLIN: Then why are we here?

MARK: I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.

CAITLIN: Do you have reason to believe that I’m not okay?

MARK: Do you have a problem with me, Caitlin?

CAITLIN: Do you have a problem with me? Mark?

MARK: I’m trying to keep the lines of communication open. Is there something you feel you need to say to me? Is there something you would feel more comfortable saying to someone else? Like Natasha?

CAITLIN: If there was, would I tell you first?

MARK: Look, I’m just trying to make sure things keep running smoothly here. If you have a problem that you’d prefer not to discuss with me, I really wish you’d go to Natasha, who has experience with this, rather than tittering off in the back with Kaitlyn—with the other Kaitlyn.

CAITLIN: And why isn’t she here for this?

MARK: I don’t want you worrying about Kaitlyn—

CAITLIN: Do you not want me talking to Kaitlyn?

MARK: I would prefer it if you didn’t gossip with Kaitlyn.

CAITLIN: And what makes you think we’ve been gossiping?

MARK: Have you been gossiping?

CAITLIN: Exactly what is it that you don’t want us to say?

MARK: Look, say whatever you want. But if you have a problem, it should go through H. R. Keeping it between yourselves is not appropriate workplace behavior.

CAITLIN: I see. Can I go now?

MARK: Caitlin.

CAITLIN: Yes, Mark.

MARK: Nothing. Just. Keep up the good work.


Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Rhodopis who grew up at a brothel in Egypt and happened, purely by accident and through no fault of her own, to become the most beautiful woman in the world.

Even before the status was official, Rhodopis’s life was not easy. She had a great many sisters—or at least women who lived in her household—who did not care for her, mostly because they were jealous (though some were just generally unpleasant). Once her beauteous fate was sealed, though, she had the added burden and danger of being the most-desired of all her “sisters” by their owner.

She often thought of running away, but wasn’t sure how.

One day, as she was bathing by the sea, a bird swept in and stole her shoe. How tasty that shoe must have been in the bird’s beak, that he carried it miles and miles over Nile-watered lands before he arrived at the house of the Pharaoh and dropped the shoe in his lap.

What happened next would strain credulity. It isn’t entirely understood, but for elusive reasons, the Pharaoh of Egypt fell in love with this single shoe—

No, hang on—is that really a thing? Because it seems a couple of steps past “unlikely” that the King of Egypt would fall in love with what couldn’t have been much more than a sandal. Was it the shape of it? The size? The smell, still lingering despite being hurled through the air? Was it the time of day or the circumstances? Was the Pharaoh lonely or lamenting the idea that he wasn’t allowed to choose his own wife? We don’t know and a part of us is starting to wonder if this shouldn’t have been a story called “That Time the King of Fucking Egypt Fell in Love With a Fucking Shoe.”

But that is not this story. This is a story that’s meant to be about the woman who owned that shoe, and what happened to her after she lost it—isn’t it? What happened to her? Was she upset about losing her shoe? Was she made fun of? Was the brothel owner who liked her just a little too much disappointed? Did he punish her?

We don’t know. All we know is that the Pharaoh sought out throughout the land of the other shoe—or perhaps for the foot that fit it—and that he found her and married her: the perfect fairy tale ending.

But how? And why? And with whom? Were there trials? Tribulations? How exactly did the Pharaoh find her? Did he put out a personals ad with a picture, or go door-to-door through his own kingdom the old-fashioned way?

How long did it take him, and what did Rhodopis suffer in the meantime? To whom could she turn? When he found her at last, what condition did he find her in? Who was the biggest threat to her, the other girls who hated her or the owner who liked her just a little too much?

All we are told is that she and the Pharaoh lived happily ever after.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

Kyle was ambitious. Not all rock-stars are. Well, all rock-stars, maybe. But not all artists.

Ambition was the only way he ever could have done what he did. But that didn’t mean he had tunnel-vision. Maybe life would have been easier for him if he had. Then again, it’s hard to really make good art if you’re too-too focused.

ERIN: Mr. Niedermeyer.

Kyle walked into her office. Ms. Kelly. Erin. Erin Kelly, who was a new teacher that year, fresh out of the teaching program at the local college, who’d taken a shine to Kyle at the beginning of this, his senior, year.

Kyle had taken quite a shine to Ms. Kelly, too.

KYLE: Miss Kelly.

ERIN: Please, sit down.

It was easier for her if he wasn’t pacing the room.

ERIN: Is there something I can help you with? (sensing her own trap) Something school-related?

KYLE: I have been wondering about college.

ERIN: You haven’t made a decision yet?

KYLE: Can you really blame me?

They were alone right now, but they still needed to be careful.

ERIN: I’m sure I can. You’re a brilliant young man. Brilliant young men go to college.

KYLE: It’s expensive.

ERIN: Only if you’re not wily enough to handle the loans.

KYLE: How are you handling yours?

It was always tacky to bring up the subject of educational finance, and she should have known better.

ERIN: I hardly think that’s an appropriate question, young man.

KYLE: I think it’s pretty pertinent, considering.

ERIN: Considering what, exactly?

She shouldn’t have asked that. She knew the answer to it. She knew it, he knew it, all of the cards on the table.

KYLE: I have options, Miss Kelly. I don’t have to go to school.

ERIN: You’re not referring to your band, are you?

It wasn’t fair of her to put it that way, but then again, none of this was fair. Not anymore.

KYLE: If we win this competition, we could be touring with SchadowFreud. That’s big money. Money’s always better than debt.

ERIN: Has your band even decided on a name yet?

They hadn’t. She knew they hadn’t. It wasn’t the sort of thing that she was supposed to know, but she knew it, and he knew she knew it and now she could use it against him.

ERIN: Look, I don’t recommend college for everyone. But with a mind like yours, you could do great things. Amazing things.

KYLE: I don’t need to go to college to do that.

ERIN: College would help.

KYLE: Is that why you want me to leave?

Long pause.

KYLE: You’ve heard us play. You know we can make it. We’ve got what it takes.

If anyone has, she reminded herself, it’s them, with the faith of intimate relations.

ERIN: If that’s what you want, you can always defer admission. Do college later.

She could tell by the flair of his nostrils he was gritting his teeth at this, so she decided to play her last hand.

ERIN: But you realize that whether you’re going to college or going on tour, you’re still leaving.

And there it was. He flexed his hand and cracked his knuckles like he always did when he was about to play his guitar.

KYLE: Is there a reason for me not to?

Ms. Kelly—Erin—sighed.


That was it then.

ERIN: No, there isn’t.

He didn’t seem to have anything else left to say.

ERIN: Well, it seems like you’ve got it all figured out.

KYLE: I guess so.

ERIN: Yeah.

It seemed to Erin Kelly that day, talking to a boy she shouldn’t have been talking to that way, that their impasse had come to a head. There was a finality to gridlock, Zeno’s paradox shattered in the sheer entropy of time marching on towards the end of the schoolyear. But she couldn’t bring herself to decide that it was a good finality, a finality she was comfortable with. It would be many years before she would be able to reconcile with what had passed between them.


Dana Lord never thought of herself as a great beauty. No one, in fact, had ever thought of her as a great, or indeed any kind of, beauty. But she’d managed to find herself a man, through charm and luck, they told her, and she had to agree with them that it was luck even after her husband died in a car-crash while she was pregnant. She was devastated, of course, but still forced to talk about how lucky she had been to know him and for him to have loved her (even though he’d been no great beauty himself) because after all, no one as plain as she could just expect love to come to her like a great beauty could.

But when her child was born, it was apparent immediately that something was wrong. It wasn’t just the issue of the genitals. She’d been told her baby would be a boy, but when it came out, “A miracle!” the doctor exclaimed upon checking. “I’ve heard of cases like this—rumors, mostly—but to actually see one!”

Her child had been born with a penis and a vagina, both fully formed.

“And functioning!” the doctor insisted, though what he meant by that…

“But will he be able to have children?” Dana demanded. “Or… she?” Shocked, she settled on “It?”

“I believe ‘they’ is the preferred form, but perhaps you should wait and see how the child tends. I’ll need a name now,” said the attendant, “For the birth certificate.”

Dana was handed the baby and that was when she noticed what was really wrong. “Angel,” was the only name she could come up with. “My baby’s name is Angel.”

Perhaps if Dana had allowed the doctors to perform the simple procedure that would have pushed them one way or the other, things might have turned out different, but she kept arguing with herself—what if she got it wrong? And then looking into her child’s angelic face, she thought How could I mutilate this with a choice when they could have both?

But even if Dana Lord had made the choice for her Angel, would it have been any different? She or he would still have had that face. The most beautiful face imaginable.

Even as an infant, in the hospital, people were drawn to it, to the point of neglecting the other newborns. Attention was lavished on Angel Lord to such an extent that Dana breathed a sigh of relief that nothing bad could ever happen to them, they would want for nothing. They were too beautiful to suffer.

But by the time Angel was two, the price of beauty became apparent. Dana came home to find the uncle she’d left with them in the one position you never want a babysitter to be in.

“I just… I couldn’t help myself,” said Dana’s brother. The rest of what he said, how he tried to excuse himself, was unfit for any ears but those in prison who would punish him for it.

But it did show Dana what she needed to do to keep her child safe. She thought about mutilation, scarification, maybe make it look like an accident. The price of beauty was too high to pay, but how could she destroy the face of an Angel? So instead, she fashioned a Veil for her Angel and made them wear it wherever they went. At first, she tried to get dispensation from school, but no, no, no, it was much easier to teach them at home, keep them away from the eyes of the curious.

“But it’s uncomfortable!” Angel complained all the time as they got older.

“Oh, you think that’s uncomfortable!” Dana exclaimed. “Think what they’ll think of you without it—I promise you, that’ll make you uncomfortable!”

At fourteen, Angel Lord fell in love with a girl they met online. “Why do you wear that Veil?” the girl asked.

“Because I’m ugly,” replied the Angel. “So ugly that people will try to hurt me if they see my face.”

“I won’t try to hurt you!” the girl insisted. “I could never hurt you!”

So Angel sent a picture, sans Veil. “You’re beautiful!” the girl said, tears in her eyes.

She tried to come to them, and they tried to get away, but couldn’t outfox Dana. Time and again, the girl failed. So after the dozenth or so attempt, she wrote one last message: “If you can’t have me, no one will!” and she was found the next morning. Angel wept.

“I told you,” said Dana to her child, “No good could come of her seeing you.”

“But she told me I was beautiful,” Angel sighed.

“I know,” said the Angel’s mother.

When the girl’s computer and internet history was searched, they found the image of Angel Lord in all their glory. Men, women, any one of any persuasion or taste, became captivated at the sight. “We have to leave,” said Dana.

Angel Lord tried to cut themself—“I don’t want to be beautiful!”—But the blade wouldn’t pierce and where it finally did, the scars only leant more character. They tried cutting other places—perhaps if they joined the girl who’d loved them—but something stopped them every time.

“I’m going to stop wearing the Veil,” Angel Lord told their mother when they were twenty-three. “I don’t care what happens to me, I don’t care what happens to the world, I need to be myself and I need the world to see me.”

They plunked themself down on a park bench and waited.

A young man walked by and smiled and they were suspicious, but he say and they spoke and they told their story.

“Well, you are very beautiful,” said the man, “But does that mean you caused these terrible things? Terrible things have happened to you, but that doesn’t make them your fault.”

“You don’t want to… do things… to me?”

“I don’t want to do anything to you,” the young man said, “that you don’t want me to do.”

Dana objected to the marriage when the proposal came several months later, but Angel Lord had let their mother’s paranoia and possessiveness rule their life for quite long enough.

Nice Guys Only Bite on Demand

Katelyn Nichols’ blind date was not going well at all. Colin West seemed like a nice guy, I guess, a sweet guy with sweet inhibitions and sweet stories about living with his grandmother until she passed. But there was nothing there—so much nothing in fact, so much sweetness, that she was kind of afraid to ditch him, for fear he might just wilt and crumble into a puddle of wimp, and she didn’t want to see that.

Across the bar, though, she saw Raphael Mann. She didn’t know that was his name, but given enough incentive and cause, she probably could have come up with it. He was so swarthy and windblown and chiseled he could easily have been the model on a cheesy Romance cover. She found her eyes drifting off in his direction periodically over the course of Colin’s accounting-driven conversation style.

“Excuse me,” she found herself saying, “I’m gonna have to go powder my nose.”

She never got to the powder-room, though. Instead, she found herself drawn off in the direction she had seen Mr. Chiselchest wander a few minutes ago. This turn led her out onto a dark alley.

Shit. Why was she here?

“You are not lost,” a nonspecific European accent drawled behind her. “I knew you would come.”

Suddenly, she felt him behind her, hot breath on her neck, hands at her hips, fingers pressing past her skin—this was it. This was what she meant when she said she needed to get back out there!

“You wish me to stop?” he whispered, his words landing on her ears like silk, like smooth jazz.

“No,” she breathed, rolling her head back onto his shoulder.

“Good,” he said.

And then Katelyn felt pressure on her neck. A familiar pressure, at first, that reminded her of early boyfriends’ hickies and college roommates’ forays into kink, but then it didn’t stop there and suddenly there were needles like tines on a barbecue fork treating her neck like an eager virgin girl—

This wasn’t what she signed up for. But then, what else should she have expected from a late-night encounter in a dark alley behind a bar?

She grabbed the back of his head, his hair, trying to pry him off, but that only drove his daggers deeper.

“Stop!” she finally managed to whisper, and as soon as the word was out, she stopped feeling him. It was as though every part of his body stopped touching hers at the same time.

“I apologize,” he sulked. She turned around to him and at first, he wouldn’t even meet her eyes. “I saw you inside and I thought this was what you wanted. If I misestimated and got carried away…” Finally, his eyes met hers. “I am sorry.”

Then he vanished back into the building like smoke blending into the clouds.

Katelyn wasn’t sure about following her attacker back into the bar, but it was either that or brave the alley. And besides, she thought, I have a boring-but-safe date still waiting for me there. 

“Are you all right?” Colin voiced his concern, but she brushed him off. He paid while she anxiously darted her eyes around the room for the Vampire.

Vampire. Was that what she was calling him? Seemed fair enough.

“Could you walk me home?” she asked him, but then discovered his place was closer. “Could I bother you for a night-cap?” she blushed when he didn’t seem to be going in for a kiss.

What was she doing? She’d only just been assaulted—hadn’t she?—in the back alley of a bar, and now she was—what?

Reclaiming her agency, she told herself. That Vampire had taken liberties she hadn’t granted him, so now here she was mending her pride by taking charge with a guy who definitely wasn’t going to do it himself.

“Sorry I don’t have any wine,” said Colin, bringing her water.

“That’s okay.” She brushed his hand more than she had to, taking the glass from him, and found and held his gaze. This elicited an awkward chuckle.

“I like water more anyway,” he told her. “It’s good for the soul, you know?”

“Yeah,” she breathed, inching closer to him.

“It’s cleansing,” he told her, his voice shaking—no doubt from proximity to her. “And you want to be clean, don’t you?”

This seemed like an odd thing to say, making her frown, but it wasn’t as odd as seeing him whip out a knife and stab her with it.

She had just enough time to scream before it pierced her belly.

I knew it! some part of her brain belted. I knew he was too fucking nice to be true!

She slashed at his face with one set of manicured nails and then caught his head in the other hand and sank both her thumbs into his eyes. Now he was the one screaming.

She slid off the couch, trying to gauge her next move, but then there was a knock at the door.

“Are you all right?” came a familiar European accent.

“Who the fuck are you?” Katelyn screamed.

“Is he dead?” the Vampire asked, sounding relieved.

Just then, Colin answered by blindly shrieking and launching himself in her general direction. Without thinking, Katelyn pulled the knife out of her gut and plunged it deep into his chest. Shit, she thought, realizing too late that removing the knife had been a bad idea. She could feel herself bleeding out.

Is he dead?” Raphael Mann yelled through the door again.

“Yes,” Katelyn whispered.

In the blink of an eye, the room was filled with shards of the door and her previous attacker was cradling her head in his lap.

“My darling,” he coo’d, “I am sorry, but I must bite you now.”

“Will I become one of you?” she found herself asking.

“If that is what you want,” he said. “Something terrible has happened to you. Now, the choice is yours. Your life can be over now, or you can become a monster. Or, if you are brave and dedicated, you can recover. You can never be who you once were, but perhaps… perhaps you can be better.”