Blood & Spirits - Dennis Sharpe
To all the people who helped me make this book as good as could possibly be.
Angela, Becca, Britton, Carrie, Doug, Karson, Lesley, Nikki, Roger, Ryan, the other Ryan, Shawna, Tammy, Ian, Mitchell, Theresa, Teresa, and countless others who’ve helped me, pushed me, or said the hard things I didn’t want to hear.
I thank you for reading drafts, and re-reading drafts, editing advice, and just being cheerleaders and drinking coffee with me in the wee hours of the morning when I needed it, as well as making me see that some things just aren’t as important as I make them.
Special thanks to Krystal, Samantha, and Shari… simply the best there are to work with.
Seriously, and with much love, thank you all.
"The fair girl went on her knees and bent over me, fairly gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal... I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the supersensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there."
- BRAM STOKER
“I have an idea that the phrase "weaker sex" was coined by some woman to disarm some man she was preparing to overwhelm.”
- OGDEN NASH
THE YEAR IS NINETEEN FIFTY-THREE. The sky is a deeper blue, and the world is generally a better place.
A little girl plays on the grassy front lawn of a small house on Summit Drive. She has a cute face and a winning smile, even if she does tend to be a little overly plain tomboy. Her red hair is in pig-tails, and her shorts are rolled up to keep them from being as dirty as her mud-coated legs. She is a happy child.
A dark sedan pulls up in the driveway, and a man in a well-pressed uniform gets out, puts on his hat, and makes his way to her front door.
She stops playing to look at his uniform and marvel at how much better it looks than her daddy’s.
The officer talks to her mommy on the porch for a moment, but she can’t hear what they’re saying. A feeling of dread comes over her as her mommy leans against the doorway, crying. Whatever it was must be horrible; her mommy doesn’t ever cry.
Everything unravels for the little girl. From that moment on, nothing can ever be the same.
She goes to daddy’s funeral in the most beautiful dress she’s ever seen; this gorgeous thing given to her to cover the ugliest loss of her life. Everything that has been her world quickly disappears. Her only memories of a normal life will all be from before the age of eight.
My body jerks up to a sitting position as the tight muscles of my limbs spasm. Instinctively, air forces its way into my tightened lungs, the panic ebbs, but calm refuses to replace it. Another nightmare, but not just any bad dream. My memories had come back to haunt me.
The year is 2012. I keep reminding myself of that as I ease back down into the reassuring pillow top, already beginning to drift off again.
Kathy, that little girl, was me once upon a time. She was small and weak before Jules found her. He took her in, changed her, and gave her strength.
He killed Kathy. What he left was Veronica. He made me.
I have no regrets.
I’M TOLD IT’S AN ODDITY that I still sleep. It only comes in short bursts, no more than forty-five minutes at a time. Most others with my condition -- and I have only known a handful -- tell me they don’t sleep anymore. Some of them haven’t in more than five decades. I can’t imagine the hell that must be. Even in my brief moments of rest, I still dream and in that I find relief. Even if the dreams aren’t what I like, they are still an escape.
The soft thickness of my comforter envelops me as I relax back into bed. Before I’m completely awake, my mind begins to unfold, opening to the world around me. In the distance, the fog is rolling in off the river, dense and blanketing, its vaporous fingers right there on the edges of my consciousness. The night is cool, and the last lights of the dying day dance across my ceiling, reflected from the crystals hanging in my window. The light tinkle as they sway into each other is a reassuring sound; the beautiful prisms they cast, a blessing.