Buffy the Discount Vampire Slayer — Vampire Verisimilitude

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Let me explain why I was late.

I was still on the Braxton County side of Route 5 heading toward Glenville when I saw this old Toyota pickup on the roadside with hazards on and the hood up. I normally wouldn’t have stopped except for this tiny little blonde shivering in a ripped blue winter coat. We all know I’m not supposed to, but I couldn’t leave her out there cold and alone on the last week of December, right? The truck had paper plates, so I figured it was just a breakdown.

Yes, it was the middle of the night and, yes, I was a little thirsty, but that isn’t the point.

I parked behind the truck, left my lights on, and walked up to her. She was five-nothing, twenty-ish, and slight; I’m average but I still felt twice her size. Her eyes looked huge as she looked up to me, heavy night makeup and all. No tears, though.

“Are you okay?” I asked. “Do you need me to call someone?”

“You shouldn’t have,” she said, sounding both shocked and angry. “Look at you. Why the hell would you stop? You don’t know us.”

“Us” turned out to include a beastly broad-shouldered guy with a face-full of black fur who thought he was sneaking up, and by sneaking I meant stamping around like a buck. He’d come down the hill behind my Kia Soul, opened the driver’s door and switched off my headlights.

So, yeah: trap.

“We’ll need those keys in your pocket, too,” the man said. I turned my back on the woman and stared him down, catching him poking around in my purse. He was about the size of Travis but looked more like evil Travis, standing and staring like he dared me to do something.

“And if I tell you to put my purse back and walk away?” I kept my tone even with maybe a hint of sarcasm. He didn’t look sure he was ready for a reaction like that.

“Would you prefer a hole in your spine?” the woman said behind me, cocking the hammer back on what sounded like a good-sized revolver and poking my back with it. I didn’t feel like having a hole in my coat any more than hiding bodies, but I wasn’t letting them get away with it, either. When I didn’t immediately react, she added, “It ain’t worth your life, lady. Why the hell did you stop?”

As I felt her hand plunge into my coat pocket to fish for my key fob, Evil Travis stepped toward me. Decision time: if I stepped aside as the trigger was pulled, he’d get a gut shot instead of me and it’d serve him right, but I also didn’t feel like filing a police report. Instead, I waited for an opportunity. When she found the fob, Evil Travis grinned.

“Who loves ya, baby?” she asked, tossing my keys toward him.

“You do, Buffy,” he replied, doing his worst Elvis impersonation as he reached out to catch them…

But this Vampire wasn’t going to be robbed by a blonde named Buffy.

As the guy started to get back into my vehicle, Buffy put her free hand on my shoulder, presumably to guide me somewhere while keeping me at gunpoint. As she touched me, I quick-grabbed her wrist and yanked her around faster than she had any hope of avoiding. Her hand cannon didn’t go off as I slammed her back against the ground; the weapon was a .38 Special — Kelly Jean owned one. I took it without resistance.

Evil Travis froze when he saw I had the gun, but seeing me empty the bullets into my hand emboldened him to rush me. I admit I couldn’t resist inflicting him with a good pistol whip when he lunged; it must have made him feel small. When he recovered and turned toward me again, I stopped him with a single word.

My pint-sized nemesis, on the other hand, gasped for air; I’d knocked the wind out of her. I waited as she recovered, something that clearly made her antsy along with Huck’s sudden compliance. She probably wondered why wasn’t I beating her ass down or running away. Short answer: I had questions.

“What did you do to Huck?” Buffy finally gasped.

“He’ll live. Why are you two out here rolling travelers after midnight? Is this even your truck?”

She nodded. “What… what did you–”

“He’ll be fine. Why are you doing this?”

Buffy eyeballed me. I guess she couldn’t get past the idea I was even asking about them. “We’re going to Florida to start over. To be together.”

“From where?”

“Bobtown. Pennsylvania.”

I remembered it being a small town right over the West Virginia border, plus they were too old to be runaways. “Why are you robbing people? Have you ever done this before?”

“Huck’s dad cut off his credit card. We can’t buy food or gas.” Buffy looked at Huck. “Are you calling the cops? We weren’t going to hurt you, I swear.”

Said the woman who pulled a loaded gun on me and tried to steal my Soul. “Where in Florida?”

“Jacksonville.” She looked hard at me. “You’re so calm about this. Were you really going to help us? Women don’t do that — never when they’re alone.”

“Give me your driver’s licenses.” As I took pics of them with my phone, I noticed there was no cell signal; they’d picked a dead spot on a curve in case someone tried to call for help. Maybe not so dumb.

I commanded Huck to face the hillside, watching Buffy looking horrified at his zombie-like compliance while I snagged some money from my purse. “Look at me, Buffy.” She did. “I’m buying your gun for three hundred dollars. You and Huck are driving straight to Florida except for gassing up and eating. I know folks in law enforcement, and if I even think you didn’t go to Jacksonville, I’ll tell them everything you tried with me including giving them your gun. Are we good?” I returned their IDs to her along with the promised cash.

She looked both shocked and confused. “Why? After all this you’re still going to help us? Who are you?”

“Everyone should get a second chance,” I said before vamping out: black eyes and full fangs while lifting her chin with the tip of my taloned finger. “Also, the Mountain State is under my protection and I want you out of it. If I ever see either of you here again, I’ll bury you alive and paint ‘Here Lies Buffy’ on your headstone in Huck’s blood. Got me?”

“Yes, ma’am.” At least she was polite.

I told Huck to sleep for an hour before forgetting everything that happened back at the road after I got there, so only Buffy would know. I watched her turn their truck around and followed them back to I-79 to ensure they turned south before I came home.

In our training room under the Longevity Studies Building, Eric, Cole, and Travis looked appalled.

“That’s where you were?” Eric asked. “You’re not supposed to stop out there except in an emergency. That’s your rule.”

“It was an emergency,” I replied, still exhilarated over the entire incident. “Or I thought it was. It was seven degrees out there.”

“Plus you should have called us,” Cole added.

“Without a cell signal? I think I mentioned that.” I couldn’t believe they didn’t get it. “And?”

Eric wasn’t buying it. “And not one other car passed by on that road while a gun was being waved at you?”

Travis looked devastated. “Evil Travis? You think I’m evil?”

“I said he ‘looked like’ an evil you. You guys are all missing the point…”

Cole smirked. “That only a fool would give a couple of thieves three hundred bucks?” All three nodded at that. “Where’s the gun?”

“I gave it to Kelly Jean. You think I’m making this up?”

“Show us the license pictures,” Travis added. “I want to see what this fake-me really looks like.”

“Seriously, guys! Think about it: I met Buffy the Vampire Slayer and lived to tell the tale! Where are my props?”

Happy New Year, guys.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Myth of the Immortal Court — Vampire Verisimilitude

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I came across this art for a Vampire MMO (read: video game) called Shadow’s Kiss, which admittedly sounds interesting. Believe me when I say Vampires should only meet on social media… because “reasons.” But this image makes me cringe — hear me out on this.

The crowned and corseted brunette with the opera gloves and thigh-highs; the blonde and blue-eyed blood doll worshiping at her feet desperate to be “kissed”; the goateed and coiffed confidant standing close — and all of them noticing you noticing them. Hell, event the gold and gem-encrusted skull throne is ridiculous. Image, image, image — no reasonably intelligent creature buys any of this, right? This is such a cliché and overdone idea that the subjects might as well be sparkling and swaying to looped trance music.

Why would anyone want to become any of these characters? How much court intrigue could justify it? Even “True Blood” character Eric Northman (read: still yummy) hated doing the whole bit at Fangtasia precisely because it’s ridiculous. And if you needed any fictional proof of vampire-court pointlessness, look no further than the ineffectiveness of Underworld. There’s no Italian Inquisitor Council and no secret cabal of hibernating immortals awakened whenever “Chuck the Vamp” steps out of line to deal with his Chuckiness.

I hope the game turns out to be cool, but let’s step into modern times and away from the Mushroom Ring Fairy Tale Demonic Vampire Court thing, okay?

Addendum: I should probably clarify my viewpoints. My father is a self-made man; he didn’t give me everything I wanted growing up and he worked hard so he could send me to college. He kept bettering himself even with setbacks, but while he was tough on me, he also had a few thoughts on “royalty.” I was three and had no memory of when Queen Elizabeth II visited America, but I do remember Princess Diana (no, not Wonder Woman) and her passing when I was almost nine.

Elizabeth served in the armed forces as a truck mechanic, and Diana wanted to be as far away from thrones and courts as she could get. I knew girls my age who wanted to be Disney princesses — and that’s okay — but I preferred a princess with quotes like, “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” Selfless and in service of others, not ruling over them and have them do for you.

While this Vampire Court image is a very pretty fantasy picture, nothing about it feels selfless or serving: it’s threatening. It looks like a gathering of wolves waiting for sheep to be served to them, and I cannot articulate just how much that pisses me off. How do I know? Look at the blue-eyed blood doll. If the courtesans were in any way benevolent, she wouldn’t be tethered to her mistress for snacking while looking wronged for it. They’re flaunting themselves and will likely be destroyed for it — not exactly the best way to plan for your immortality.

Trust me — I’m a Vampire.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Cassidy from “Preacher” – Vampire Verisimilitude

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I’m a Vampire who enjoys stories getting Vampires right.

“Preacher” is one of them. If you’re not familiar with this AMC show — spoiler! — Cassidy’s a Vampire but not the main character. While we’re shown he’s capable of blood-raging violence, most of the time he just wants to be left alone with his substance abuse. He’s a predator who avoids killing because of both the complications it brings — bodies don’t hide themselves — as a well as personal code of who deserves his wrath.

Every Vampire I’ve met has their own variation of this unwritten code with no two alike. None are more complicated than that of a sire and their progeny, and in the case of Cassidy — another surprise spoiler! — turning his actual son, Denis. Cassidy is over a century old, so it isn’t clear if he fathered Denis before being turned, only that he was there at the time of the child’s birth. I’m thinking he wasn’t a Vampire yet; newborn blood is intoxicating to a Vampire, even more so than in regular children.

But the real Cassidy is revealed in his attitude toward his fatherly-looking son. As Denis lays dying from heart failure, he begs the Vampire to show him mercy: to turn him. Cassidy has shown no forethought in being an immortal, living moment-to-moment from one distraction to the next. Yet here is his son whom he can save, but the Vampire clearly knows that turning him isn’t the same as saving him… not if it’s unleashing a new monster upon an unsuspecting world. Still, he wants to be the “good da” he promised, so…

Vampires are survivors, and in my experience, they keep their own numbers low all on their own. I laugh every time that meme goes around “proving” Vampires don’t exist or else they’d have infected the entire population now like mindless zombies. It isn’t humans Vampires fear; it’s other Vampires, and rightly so. While showing complete loyalty to preacher Jesse Custer, even killing for him unasked, Cassidy typically takes the path of least resistance, partying all night before making a withdraw from a blood bank rather than kill an innocent. Surviving off of stored blood isn’t exactly true for us, but the sentiment is appreciated.

Cassidy is as close to the Vampires I know as any, and seeing the pain of both wanting and having to deal with the son he couldn’t abandon, especially knowing the dangers, he also took personal responsibility for his part in it. Not perfect by any means — none of us are — but hitting very close to home. I wouldn’t go partying with Cassidy as his sort of debauchery isn’t my thing, but I also wouldn’t turn him away if he asked for my help… within reason.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Ladyhawking the Eclipse – Vampire Verisimilitude

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My friend Nancy told me about le paradoxe, which is exactly what you think it is: “the paradox.” I’m not sure why it’s pronounced with a French accent, but it’s the idea that a solar eclipse bends one of our Vampire rules: the need to be in the ground during the daytime.

Just a reminder: sunlight doesn’t kill us and neither do stakes — not to imply we’re fond of either.

According to Nancy and confirmed by Parham, during the period of even a partial solar eclipse, it elates a euphoric reaction in Vampires and suspends our “corpus visage” from the moment of First Contact. Here’s a cool chart showing all that eclipse terminology and stuff if you’re interested.

And unlike mere mortals with retinas that can burn out, we can look at it all we like.

To repeat: unless you’re undead, NEVER look directly at the sun.

This said, I am planning accordingly… to “Ladyhawke” it but without all that priest-killing. I’ll be on the rooftop of Cedarcrest Sanctum next to my belfry — aka my lunarium — and I already have a beach lounge chair angled for optimal viewing. I’m thinking flip-flops and a bikini, the red two-piece I never get to wear anymore.

Maybe I’ve included an old picture of how I looked in it when I was still alive, or maybe I haven’t.

Wouldn’t you like to know.

See you all after the eclipse!

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Affirmation – Vampire Verisimilitude

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I am a Vampire. We notice everything and forget nothing. We drink the blood of the living to remain immortal. We prefer the night and avoid the sun. We are strong, fast, and very hard to destroy — not to mention the retractable fangs and talons.

It’s easy to accept that all evil stems from beings perceived as different from ourselves.

The Vampires I know were made, not born. We are not a race. Some sought it, some accepted it, and some had it inflicted upon them. It can’t be undone, but we can choose what we do with it.

I will not be evil. I have vowed to protect against those who embrace destruction and champion those who cannot protect themselves.

Vampires are not evil by nature, but we are survivors. We have a strong will to exist… the same as all creatures upon this Earth.

Those who easily take can also choose to ask, but we cannot exist by ourselves.

We are symbiotic, you and I — all of us.

Can you understand that? Everyone wants to live.

Please stop hurting one another.

We’re better than that.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Objects In Mirrors – Vampire Verisimilitude

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Ever heard the tale of Androcles and the Lion? There are plenty of variations, but the core of the story is that a mortal man cares for a deadly lion in need of help, foregoing his own safety to do so since the lion can kill the man on a whim. This selfless act earns the predator’s respect and affection; not only will the man remain safe in the lion’s company but can count on the protection of the clawed and fanged creature if threatened.

Surprise FYI: Vampires aren’t all that different, folks.

When I was turned and subsequently abandoned, I internalized; I couldn’t bear the death of even one more innocent on my conscience. Fortunately, I was taken in, provided for, and (mostly) allowed time to figure things out.

Everyone needs help from time to time, whether it’s having a thorn removed from a paw or satisfying the thirst of an immortal. There’s always a risk, of course; every situation and individual are different, just like Vampires or lions.

Sometimes hope isn’t as unattainable as you think; your fate isn’t sealed. I took a life when the monster took over, and while the lives I’ve saved will never replace the one taken, I don’t save them in penance; I do it because it’s the right thing to do… and because I have the power to do so.

If you need help, seek it. If you are offered help, accept it.

And even if you’re afraid, sometimes it’s still good to be another’s hope — even at risk to yourself.

If there’s a better definition of heroism, I’ve never heard it.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 9: Homeward

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“What did we get?” I asked Cole after takeoff.

He tapped up a few screens on his laptop. “A few local exchanges and recent call numbers. It’ll take a while to go through the data. Tucker lives for this; I’ll send the entire sample to him.”

“Good idea. And good job tonight.” I glanced toward Travis. “Both of you.”

“We should have caught that sooner…”

“Me, too.” I noticed mom and dad together in the back of the plane where mom had napped out on the way up. They seemed okay, but it was all a bit of a shock: a bitter end to an otherwise enjoyable weekend. Now we were all questioning what parts were real and which weren’t… as well as who to trust. I went back to sit with them.

“He didn’t even seem apologetic,” my dad said to me, “like he was just doing his job.”

“And nothing else seemed weird before that? Mom and I had never met Ron or Cammie before.”

Dad shrugged. “Same old Ron… right up to the end.” He smiled. “Bet he didn’t figure on you sweeping him up like that!”

“Ron also didn’t resist, and I think Cammie gave herself away on purpose.” It reminded me of Nancy’s invasion of Cedarcrest. “Vampires don’t trust anyone they can’t thrall. Maybe if I was a little less trusting — ”

“You didn’t know, Sweetie,” mom reassured me. “But all-in-all, it was a lovely weekend. Good food, good company… surely Willie wasn’t in on it.”

I wasn’t convinced. “From what Ron started to say, this Adam took the time to find out who I was, who you were, who Ron was, and set all this up. I can’t imagine his intention was to do us harm; he passed up plenty of opportunities before that.” I shuddered at the thought of letting my parents sleep there, in his house, when they could have been kidnapped, murdered, or worse.

“We’re all safe now,” my mom said, ” and that’s what’s important. Well, that and me winning our bet.”

I eyeballed my mom. “What bet?”

She grinned. “On whether or not he could talk you into biting him.”

Dad rolled his eyes and smirked.

“You had a bet going?”

“You should have seen him!” mom said, imitating the way dad would act full of himself. “‘I know my daughter. If she thinks she’s fulfilling someone’s fondest wish, she’ll bend over backwards!’ Imagine his surprise when you refused. I said you’d think it was creepy…”

I flashed my fangs at my mom and pretended to scowl at her. “Maybe I should bite you.”

“Anything you need, Sweetie,” she replied in the most mom-like way possible.

I hope everyone had a good holiday. 😘

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 8: Reveal

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“Please don’t hurt anyone,” a calm voice instructed. “No one has come to any harm, and I leave it up to you for that to continue.”

The sound was coming from one of those hockey puck-sized digital assistant devices. It had been sitting unassuming on a table the entire weekend and I hadn’t once considered it might have been listening to us — lessons learned.

“Janiss?” the voice continued.

I loosened my grip on Uncle Ron and drew my talons in. “Adam, I presume?”

“A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Connelly. Forgive my methods, but I’m something of a recluse and prefer this over an in-person meeting.”

“So you’re a coward.” Ladies and gentlemen: my mom.

“What you call methods,” I interrupted, “I call a serious breach of etiquette. You might have just messaged me.”

“I wanted to hear you as you were, gauge your demeanor in social interaction. I found rumors of your willingness to pass as mortal intriguing, but your ferocity in the protection of your charges? That has become something of legend in our circles.”

“Meet me alone and I’ll scratch my name across your forehead; that’ll give you something to talk about.” I saw Travis grin; someone was having a good time.

Adam’s brief pause didn’t go unnoticed; he was thinking about it. “Your aircraft is waiting at Bishop. We can continue this another time. It was good — ”

“Hear this, Adam,” I cut him off. “You’re on notice as of now, and I will find out all about you. Come at me or those under my protection again and you’ll serve as a dire warning. If you still want to talk, send an email.” I released Ron to better rip the audio puck out of the wall by its cords and launch it through a window into the front yard. “Travis?”

Switching places to guard my mother from Cammie — I loved the way she slinked backward as I approached — Travis got up close and personal with Ron, filching a mobile phone for his efforts. Tossing it to Cole, a quick copy of the contents was made through the data port; it was a start.

“Adam came to us months ago…” Ron started to explain, looking toward my dad for possible forgiveness.

“Don’t,” my dad replied. “You’re a liar and that’s quite enough.”

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 7: Conflict

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“Hey, daddy!” I said, strolling in from the kitchen and finding a place to plop down on the couch… separating him from Uncle Ron in his recliner. Mom was on a love seat watching something on television.

“Dishes done, sweetie?” my dad asked.

I nodded before turning to Ron. “This has been an amazing weekend, but I have to know: whose idea was it to invite me?”

“Ron’s,” my father answered as I stared my so-called uncle down.

Not surprised. “Is that right?”

Aunt Cammie returned from the bathroom sporting a bandaid over her cut finger. She was moving toward my mother with purpose. I met her eyes as I spoke.

Stop, Cammie,” I commanded her. She didn’t, of course, stopping instead behind my mom’s chair and within easy reach of her.

Ghouled… probably both of them.

“Mom? Dad?” I asked. “Are you both packed?”

Before either responded, Uncle Ron turned the television off with the remote. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding…”

There are times I amaze myself with the speed I can move when I’ve fed recently. Whether he intended to defend himself or not, I sprang from my seat and caught Ron by the throat, hauling him out of the recliner and pinning him against the wall. My ferocity seemed to have gotten his attention. “Cammie, if you so much as twitch in my mother’s direction, I will beat you senseless with Ron’s spine, so now would be a good time to start talking.”

I was impressed how well my parents were taking the whole thing in stride. Had they already suspected?

“Adam is Flint’s local lord,” Cammie explained… sounding surprisingly worried. By lord I assumed she meant Vampire. “You are here at his invitation. If you act out now, it won’t go well for you.”

I recalled that Michigan had a population of about ten million, so by Magdy’s estimates, there were about eight Vampires in the state. The sad part was that we had checked; there was zero evidence of any immortal activity in the Flint area, not for a decade.

I squeezed Ron’s throat a bit tighter, but I was certain he wasn’t fighting me. Cammie might not have been careless; I may have meant to discover the deception at this point. Were they both waiting to see what I would do next… or were they waiting for others to arrive?

Two doors broke open; Travis came in the front entry as Cole appeared from the kitchen. “Anyone else?” Cole asked as he surveyed the situation.

“Not in here,” I answered. “Dad?”

“Everyone else left hours ago.” Dad understood something was amiss; he and mom were keeping their cool wonderfully. Travis inserted himself between mom and Cammie. I concentrated and couldn’t sense any Vampires close by. Unless the house was wired to explode, my guys had the upper hand.

I turned my attention back to “uncle” Ron. “You’re up. Are we expecting more company, or are you going to start talking now?”

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 6: Trapped

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Aunt Cammie asked me into the kitchen while Uncle Ron continued to entertain with my parents on the enclosed back porch. I never knew her growing up, so there was a lot of trust set forth with my dad as the common denominator, but I also had no reason to doubt her. It had been an enjoyable weekend with people coming and going — even if I only saw them in the evenings.

“I understand you’re heading back tonight,” Cammie said. “Seems a bit late for a flight out of Bishop International.” She started washing dishes as she spoke.

“We have a charter plane through the place I work.” I joined in with a towel as she filled the dish rack.

“Your father mentioned you ran a big facility down in West Virginia. Glenville, wasn’t it? I wouldn’t have thought a rest home would generate that kind of revenue.”

I smiled. “We’re privately funded through a charity trust and also work on longevity research — cutting-edge biotech. I don’t how all of it works; I just administrate the residential facility.”

“That’s impressive for someone your age.” As she finished with the plates, she scooped up several pieces of silverware at once to scrub them together. “Was that what you’ve always wanted to do?”

“I enjoy helping people, but I had originally planned on becoming a teacher — ”

That’s when I noticed the way Aunt Cammie changed up how she washed the utensils, just in time to nick the side of her finger with a knife. I tensed at seeing the first droplet of blood form as Cammie shut off the water, but I stayed composed (having fed from both Cole and Travis before coming over) and casually ripped a paper towel from the nearby roll to hand to her. “I never do that,” she chuckled, wrapping her finger and holding it tight.

“Everybody does it. Where do you keep your bandaids and Neosporin?”

“In the bathroom. Go on back in — ”

“Go ahead,” I told her, starting in on finishing the dishes. “I’ve got this.”

“I… see that. Be right back.”

I rewound what saw in my mind: perfect recall. She had tensed in anticipation of her cut, but why would she cut herself? It felt distinctly like a Vampire test — one I assumed I passed — but it was the first inkling I’d felt all weekend that anything was amiss.

If the cut wasn’t an accident, my parents and I were already caught in the trap… and Uncle Ron was certainly a part of it.

I finished the dishes, put them away, and calmly considered all the ways I could eviscerate my dad’s half-brother.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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