When a vampire named Ibis moves to the small desert town of Shadow, she finds herself drawn to a teenager named Will.
Can she control her instincts enough to stop herself from destroying him?
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Tess says this will be the last move for us. I want to believe her. I’m tired of moving from the few friends I’ve managed to collect only to begin all over again.
Not, that I’m unpopular. Quite the contrary. My peers at once fear me and find my allure irresistible.
I’m not human.
Yes, I know how that sounds, but I haven’t been human since the 1940's, when my family was killed in a fire.
Tess, my guardian, was hunting in the woods behind the Little Paul Baptist Church in Florida. Some bored white boys decided it would be fun to set a negro church on fire during revival.
I was well-burned at the time, but she saved me. I was the only survivor.
She told me she'd almost killed me out of pity. But Tess had been alone for so long herself, that she saved me for purely selfish reasons. I became the daughter she never had.
Had she thought on it longer, however, she might not have blessed a fourteen year old with this strange affliction.
I guess, I should count myself lucky. Our need to move has only been because of our ever-present youth. The problem of our addiction has been solved.
Tess is supplied with human blood...Well, close enough, anyway. It’s an experimental synthetic that is shipped to us. I asked her once where she gets it and she only said, "When you are older."
Who am I to argue? She’s well over three hundred, though she looks a tenth of that, at most.
We’ve had many different kinds of living arrangements. Usually, I play her daughter, but I have played her adult sister, a few times. Human adults get far too twitchy about a girl who looks as young as I am with my disposition. So, I’d rather be with my visual peers.
It’s a sweet hell, I subject myself too. Enduring a taste of the life that was stolen from me, that night, but I have no other alternative. ...My mother, father, and sisters all dead, while I go on, just the same.
I read the guilt in Tess’s eyes. She knows I don’t blame her, but it doesn’t matter. She wishes she’d had the strength to allow me to go with the rest of my kin.
So, here I am once again in a new town...Another place ideal for our kind. A dark shadowy cliché with the added twist of desert warmth and vegetation.
Tess is a spiky-haired cornsilk blond, but we favor enough to pass as relatives. We both have the same narrow amber-hued eyes and full blushy pouts, but there are always looks and judgment when they see a brown child and no black father.
I reclined in the backseat of Tess’s Jeep, my over-sized dark green canvas-hat crushed against the windshield, my eyes smeared with kohl liner. We are by nature beautiful creatures, but Tess says I was pretty before. Now, she says I ‘gleam with radiance’.
I do my best to underplay it.
My hair is hacked haphazardly in a wild style. I wear over-sized jeans and tops which swallow me and of course, the hats...I have many ugly crushed hats.
I draw on the glass with my finger while Tess turns in the driver’s seat to talk. Like all of our kind, her reflexes are flawless. I didn’t care if she looked at the road.
"Ibis...We’re almost there." Ibises were my mother’s favorite flowers. That’s my only memory of my human life.
‘There’ is a fully-furnished earthship, she purchased over the internet. A strange home, if I’ve ever seen one. All curves and angles like a giant clay sculpture in the desert. Retired hippies like them because they’re ‘off-grid’. Our kind like them for the same reason.
They exist entirely through natural power. Rain water, solar energy, and radiant heat.
We pulled up to this isolated series of slopes just inside Shadow, the small earthship surrounded by strange trees as wide as they are tall and completely green from leaf to trunk.
The built-in planter on the front window was filled with dead plants.
I took that as a sign.
Like a tiny dancer I lept up into my loft bed and stared at the ceiling, my eyes tracing the barely perceptible patterns in the adobe.
Tess walked into my room.
"Perfect...The refrigeration unit was stocked when we got here. You just need to warm it in the crockpot to sate yourself."
I nodded. She stood for a few more moments and then continued.
"I-I know you crave companionship. There is another of our kind here."
I sat up, my eyes wide with curiosity. I had yet to actually meet others like us. She’d claimed there was great danger in it.
"Dealing with others can be...sticky. When we’ve been well-settled, I’ll introduce you."
She turned and left the room, leaving me thoroughly intrigued.
The next morning, I washed and dressed. I choose to wear my floppy gray knit cap, which hung to my shoulders, gauchos, and a light long-sleeved, ivory, peasant’s top.
It was my first day of school. I took Tess’ cobalt-colored Jeep. The weather was truly unique. Colorful puffy clouds settled in a fog over the mountainous terrain. It was like driving through grey, blue, and white cotton-candy.
The school was small. I suspected I could fit three Shadow Valley High’s inside one regular-sized high school.
I pulled up early, not keen on being singled out for being new and late on the first day.
I floated into the principal’s office, my schedule in hand. I gently rapped my knuckles on the door.
"-Just a second." He called out, depressing the P.A. System button.
"Clara Henry come to the front office, Clara Henry."
"Yes?" He said, shortly. He was dark with stick-straight black hair, pulled back into a single plait. A pair of thick rimless glasses sat on his nose.
"I’m Ibis Brice, I’m new... I just need to find my locker.The number’s not on my schedule." I said, holding the small square of paper up.
He took it from me squinting, as if I had simply overlooked it. I could see he was trying not to look at me. That’s one of two reactions I get, openly staring or trying hard not to. I adjusted my cap.
He sighed heavily and sat back down behind his desk, bringing up my file on his computer. Without a word he wrote the number down on a post-it and handed it over, looking past me.
He snapped his fingers at the girl behind me...Clara, I presumed. She smirked as she past me, giving me the mutual, "Yeah, he’s a prick." look. I couldn’t help but smile.
Clara was the quintessential stereotypical American beauty. Like a young pre-surgery Pamela Anderson, she was blond with clear blue eyes and lips as pouty as my own. Usually girls who looked like her gave me the bitch-look, seeing me as beneath themselves because of my color and competition because of my looks. I read none of that from her.
I turned to leave the office, brightened a bit by my first impression of Shadow High students.
I took my time walking through the hallways, memorizing little markers like the huge corkboard announcement display. I found my locker and began to unload the books I didn’t need before lunch...
"You’ve gotta be kidding me..." Clara said her ponytail bouncing on the back of her head.
"Your locker’s next to mine." She said, nodding her head and smiling. "So, how are you liking your first day, so far?"
"I can’t really say just yet..." I said, keeping my eyes low...People always commented on the strange reddish color.
" -I’m Clara." She said offering her hand.
"Ibis." I replied only briskly shaking it.
"Wow! You’ve got cold hands!...Well, you know what they say about that."
"Warm heart." I said, smiling a little.
"What are you a freshman?" She asked, very bubbly, this one.
"A sophomore." I replied.
"I know what it’s like being new...My dad’s retired from the Army. This is the first place I’ve lived for like, more than a year." She said, clearly happy to have a permanent homestead.
"If you want you can sit at my table at lunch."
"Sure." I said, really giving a big grin.
"Wow.. You are soooo pretty. And I’m not just saying that. Really."
"Thank you." I said, amused by her energy. "So are you."
"Don’t worry, I’m not a lesbian are anything...not that I have an issue with it, if you are but.. I just wanted to make sure you know right away..."
I laughed and shook my head.
"It’s okay." I said, closing my locker.
"I’m a sophomore too, by the way."
I nodded letting her talk. "Everyone’s pretty cool here, with a few exceptions."
"As always..." I said.
"Oh! Your family’s military too?"
The sound of the school-bell cut off her puzzled look and I was pleased for the excuse to escape.
"I’ve gotta go... but I’ll see ya’ at lunch, okay?" She said, walking backwards down the hall.
"Sure." I called back waving.
I slipped into the classroom and plopped down in the middle of the far row, close to the wall.
No one made me introduce myself, though plenty of people were giving me side-ward glances. A town with the population total of six hundred and eighty three would definitely notice new faces.
I slouched into my desk and busily scratched at my notepad for the reminder of my classes. As each class let out, a few students came up to me and introduced themselves... Some with the open-mouthed stare, some determinedly avoiding it.
"Friendly town." I thought.
By the time lunch rolled around, I assumed word had gotten around about the new girl. Aside from the freshman, whose families everyone knew, anyway, I was the only truly new girl in school.
When I entered the cafeteria, I spotted Clara immediately. I grabbed a bottled water and sat down at her table.
"Everyone, this is Ibis." She said, standing up to usher me the last few steps to her table.
"Ibis, this is everyone...Ron, Kirk, Gail, Nelli, and Jerry."
Ron was a large freckled boy with a blond buzz-cut, most certainly a jock. Kirk too, looked athletic, with his letterman’s jacket and popular too, with his handsome symmetrical face, blue-eyes, white teeth, and brown wavy hair.
Nelli and Gail were as pretty as Clara. Nelli looked Hispanic or Indian with think dark hair waving down her back and large almost-black expressive eyes and Gail was a slightly darker blond with hazel eyes and shoulder-length curls.
Jerry on the end was a another dark-haired boy with gray eyes and thin features...He was very tall, his imposing-size clashing with his soft features.
Their thoughts about me couldn’t have been more different. Ron barely glanced at me and avoided looking for the rest of lunch. Kirk, Clara’s boyfriend I’d learned, was very attracted to me, openly staring when Clara got up to get more food. Jerry too was drawn in, giving me shy glances when he thought I couldn’t see.
Nelli tossed her lush locks and pursed her lips...And finally the bitch-look. I had hoped the other dark girl and I could be friends. Gail wanted to be friendly, but she seemed to be as threatened as Nelli.
And then I felt it... Or smelled it more specifically, another like me...I glanced around the cafeteria, and spotted him, dressed in a suit. He was graying at his temples but the rest of his hair flowed back in thick inky black locks curling around the nape of his neck. He wore slightly tinted glasses and had his arms folded across his chest.
His eyes narrowed behind his lenses.
"Hey, Clara who’s that?" I asked.
"Mr. Redbourne. ...Hot huh?" She said mock-dreamily.
Kirk squeezed her, eliciting a high giggle. I nodded in affirmation, because that’s what I was expected to do.
In truth, I found him unnerving.
"Hey, Bear..." A dirty-blond boy with side-swept hair and lips as pouty as Clara’s walked up to the table and playfully ruffled her hair.
"Who’s your friend?" He could only be her brother.
"Ugh! Please, let this one be." She said, rolling her eyes.
A nagging sensation seized upon me in that moment. A hard craving welling up from deep within my being. I had human-synthetic blood, earlier that week. I should not be hungry again, now...
I balled my hands into tight fists beneath the table.
He was behind me.
"Hi, I’m Will. Ignore my sister...I’m really not that bad, honest."
I clenched my jaw and focused on my fists.
"I’m sorry, Will. I’m suddenly not feeling very well." I said and that was true.
I felt like tearing out his throat, drinking the sweet elixir I could smell and hear pumping loudly beneath his skin.
"Here, drink some of your wat-"
"-No!" I said, too sharply... "I mean, I think I have a stomach ache...I’m going to the nurse."
I struggled to my feet and Clara got up too, intending to see me there...
"I can make it, myself. But thanks." I said, trying to smile assuredly through my clenched teeth.
Will backed off, frowning.
I wandered into the hall and drew in a breath...All it would’ve taken was the reflexive equivalent of blinking and his life would’ve spilled down my throat. I looked down at the half-moon marks on my palms.
I could hear the speculation back at my table. Nelli thought I had an eating disorder. If only she’d known how right she was.
Will watched me go, saying nothing.
Mr. Redbourne touched my shoulder.
"How are you feeling, Ibis?"
"Strained." I said, candidly.
"Of course...But you held up well."
He shifted on his feet.
"My first time, I did not."
I looked up at him. "You’ve experienced this."
"Yes. Certain people draw us more than others. It’s rare, but it happens."
"He smells so good." I thought.
"-But you didn’t kill him." He said with a smile, cutting into my thoughts. "So, like I said...you held up well."
"How’s Tess, now?", he asked swiftly shifting subjects, before I could think to inquire more about him.
"I don’t know. How was she when you saw her last?"
His lips curled up into a thin smile. "Touché."
"I suspect she’s the same. If there’s one thing Tess is, it’s constant."
He leaned in... "I’d suggest you get your fill before school, next time. And avoid Will Henry."
He walked off.
I continued on to the nurse’s and asked for Tylenol, stashing the pills beneath my tongue and slyly spitting them into my hand when she wasn’t looking.
I could see a mirror from where I sat. My eyes were now a deep onyx color.
I went home early, that day.