It was like being lost in a dream. More like a full blown nightmare, to be honest. I was so confused.
I kept wiping my eyes...and I sat down on the floor to see if maybe I was hallucinating all of this. Vampire dreams can feel pretty real sometimes. I mean, they're not often THIS real...but maybe this is some kind of a strange anomaly that I haven't gotten used to yet. A vampire's mindset is changing all the time, right? Depending on how much stimuli my brain absorbs throughout the night? Maybe this is a dream. I'm just...I'm still dreaming, right? That's gotta be it.
Let me just...breathe for a few minutes. Close my eyes...and breathe. I'm going to wake up soon...and this will all make sense. I'm just having a bit of a freak out moment, that's all. Nothing to worry about. Living in darkness is weird like that sometimes...
However, even through my makeshift meditation...the illusion refused to fade away. I couldn't understand it.
"Jason? I hope you're getting out of that bed! Don't let your pancakes get cold." Came the female voice as she shouted up the stairs at me. I opened my eyes, rattled to my very core. It was shocking how much she really sounded like my mom. Why is this in my head? Is my subconscious breaking open, or what?
As much as I tried to blindly ignore her call...curiosity ended up getting the best of me. I got onto my knees, and then up to my feet. All I had on was my boxer shorts and a white T-shirt...but I noticed a robe hanging up on the inside of my open closet door...so I wrapped it around me, taking a deep breath before heading towards my bedroom door.
My God...I can't remember the last time that everything looked so...so bright! It almost hurt my eyes to look in any direction. Did the sun always look like this? Jesus! I don't know how I could ever stand it.
I could smell the welcome fragrance of a fully cooked breakfast as it wafted its way out of the kitchen and up the stairs to where I was standing. Pancakes...actual pancakes. Bacon. Warm scrambled eggs. And a few hash browns too. Can't remember the last time I smelled fresh hash browns in the pan. I could feel my stomach rumbling for a taste of it all. A feeling that I haven't experienced for a long time now. I know the familiar shakes and shivers that I get when I need to refresh my blood supply...but...I had pretty much given up on the taste of real food ages ago. I can't digest it...and the idea of chewing it up only to spit it back out for flavor's sake just didn't appeal to me anymore. This was so insane. I could literally hear the hash browns sizzling in the pan as I slowly crept down the stairs.
Being extra cautious, a large part of me still wanting to prepare myself for a harsh jolt back to reality...I slowly began to peek around the corner.
Suddenly, my father came walking out of the kitchen, nearly walking right into me. "Whoah, there, buddy. Sorry about that. Didn't see you there." He said.
He was...he was actually dressed. Like...in a button down shirt and a pair of neatly ironed slacks. And a TIE! He was actually clean shaven, with his hair all neat and a hint of cologne. FAR from the broken down man that I remembered in the stained shirt with the pot belly who used to just let himself go as he did his best to finish off whatever bottle of liquor he could afford from the corner store while he waited for a call. A call from whatever the next job he was prepared to lose once he screwed it all up.
Looking around me, I noticed that the house was clean too. No turned over ashtrays. No potato chip crumbs on the couch. No dingy curtains or stained carpet. What was this???
"Jason?" I heard from the kitchen, and I slowly turned my head to actually see my mother as she put a plate down on the kitchen table and went to pour me a glass of orange juice. "You're getting an awfully late start this morning. Sit down and eat. I don't want you to gobble it all down in a hurry and end up with a tummy ache for the rest of the day."
I didn't know what to do. I had no idea of what to say. There she was...just as I remembered her. Flowing blond hair and a petite waist. Standing at the stove like something right out of a 'Leave It To Beaver' rerun. I was sure that she'd be getting dressed to go into the office soon too, but she always made sure to take care of me first. My education was always such a huge thing with her. She never wanted me to miss a day...even if I was feeling a bit sick. Rain, sleet, or snow...school was a must. Then again, she used to be a teacher, so I guess it makes perfect sense that she'd be passionate about it.
I didn't realize how much I took her natural beauty for granted until she was gone. Now...that I get to see it in again, I was awestruck...and nearly driven to tears. Did she know? Did she have any idea how much I missed her? Or how a simple car accident on a random Tuesday evening had destroyed our lives completely...unable to ever be pieced together again?
As she turned to see me standing there, still not dressed...staring blankly at her with watery eyes, she asked, "What? Honey, what's the matter?"
Unable to hold back a few sniffles, I just moved forward and wrapped my arms around her in a tight hug. I began to sob softly, doing all I could to hold my tears back...enchanted by the aroma of her. A scent that seemed so familiar to me. No perfume, or lotion, or anything artificial...just the scent of my mom. One that I had known since the day I was born and the doctor lay me her on her chest in that hospital room. She was warm. So comfortable. She felt like home.
"Jason, are you feeling alright?" She said, lightly petting the back of my head as she held me in her embrace.
I did my best to suck it up, and just secretly wiped my eyes free of tears as I backed away and tried to hold it together long enough to give her a nod. "I'm...ok." I said. She gave me a strange look, and I took that one golden moment to tell her, "Mom...I love you. Sooooo much!"
Her eyes looked concerned, but she worked up a smile for me, and caressed my cheek as she gave me a kiss on the forehead. "I love you too, sweetheart. But...I need you to get some breakfast in you so you can get dressed, ok? Let's get in gear. If you want to talk, we can have a sit down after I get home from work, ok? Promise."
"Alright..." I said, my voice still shaking with emotional confusion.
And I did it. I sat down, and I looked at my plate for a few minutes...wondering if I could really eat anything solid. After living in darkness for so long, I had to learn the hard way that I was in for a world of pain and agony if I tried to use my atrophied stomach and intestinal muscles to digest regular food. So that first bite took a great deal of hesitation for me to trust...even though it all smelled so damn delicious. But once I got a taste, and nothing bad happened to me...no gagging, no cramping, no tightening in my throat...I began shoveling the rest of my breakfast into my mouth like a man possessed. Omigod! Oh wow! It's so good! I can't believe how much my mouth is watering right now! My saliva was nearly spilling out onto my plate. More! More more more! Mmmmm! Scrumptious! More butter! Mmmm! More syrup! I cant tell you how much I missed the simple things!
It wasn't until I put my fork down and picked up half a pancake to sop up the remaining syrup and melted butter in the plate with my bare hands that I noticed my mother staring at me in disbelief. My face was covered in crumbs and sticky juices, but...oh God...it was SO worth it! "Sorry..." I said.
"Well, somebody was awfully hungry this morning." She replied.
"Yeah. I guess, I was."
"Clean up. We leave in fifteen minutes. Get dressed."
"Ok....Mom..." I smiled, and I hopped up from my chair at the table, grabbing a napkin to clean up a bit of the mess I had made, and then hurried upstairs for a super quick shower. It had been so long since I looked in an actual closet full of new clothes. Freshly washed, all on hangers, without a single wrinkle to be seen in a single one of them. I had options for what I wanted to wear today. And I could see them all clearly. Colors and all.
I went back downstairs, wondering just how long this surreal vampire dream of mine might last...afraid to get too wrapped up in it as I was certain that it was going to come to an end eventually. But, for the moment, I was more than willing to play along. Heh...do I even remember my way to the bus stop so I could take it to school. I think I remember the bus number. Wait, do I have money? How much do I need? What year is this? I need to check the calendar in the kitchen...maybe I'll remember.
It felt so strange for me to actually call out and say, "I'm going to school, Mom!"
I was really getting into my 'role' here, wasn't I?
She wished me well, but then saw me as I headed for the door and asked, "Where's your backpack, honey?"
"OH! Oh yeah! Right..." I answered, and charged back up the stairs to look all around my bedroom for my school books and stuff. Hey, give me a break. I'm extremely out of practice when it comes to this kind of thing. It hasn't been a part of my daily routine for years now. "Got it! See ya!"
As I opened the front door, I think my mom saw my hesitation to walk outside the house. A long pause where I realized that had become rather afraid of sunlight in general...and had to take a moment to adjust. A few deep breaths...a rapid heartbeat...and a few chills...before finally closing my eyes and stepping outside for the first time since I first left home. I closed the door behind me, and opened one eye first to make sure that I was ok...then opening the second one. Looking at my hands and my arms in short sleeves...illuminated from the divine light above without burning and turning myself to ash. It was such an odd experience. Sunlight brings out the glory in everything. You never know what you're missing out on until it's gone, I suppose.
As I walked to the bus stop, I couldn't stop touching the leaves of the trees within reach. Looking at the flowers. Seeing bugs and bees walk and fly around freely. The world appeared to be so foreign to me at that particular moment. Look at the grass! It's so green! The shadows and shade around me was so subtle. Not the obscuring stripes of blackness that I had become so accustomed to. Everything felt so REAL! So normal. It was almost as if this was how life was supposed to be for me all along...and I was cool with this. Sure, maybe I was feeling a bit lost in the fantasy, but...I might as well enjoy it while it lasts, right?
I got on the bus and put my money, trying not to smile too wide like some kind of a maniac so that nobody else would figure out that something was severely wrong here. Let me ride this wave for a little bit longer. It feels good.
I recognized a few faces. Stacy, Jim, Melanie, Jordan, Malik, Crystal, Brett, Harry...I hadn't seen them in SO long. I nodded at them, and they smiled and nodded back as I worked my way to the middle of the bus to find an empty seat. Am I really doing this? Is this...like...a true memory, or something else entirely. It doesn't feel like a dream. Or a memory. It feels...like life. It really does.
Owwww...I had to get used to seeing the intense glare of the daylight reflecting off of glass buildings, cars, and shiny metal, all over again. And by the time we all got off of the bus, I found myself completely LOTS as to handle having this much 'life' around me like it used to be. First of all...it seemed really 'noisy'. I guess people in daylight are a lot quieter once the sun goes down. Second of all...the 'life' around me was enough to make me dizzy in a lot of ways. It was baffling how much was going on, just on that single bus ride alone. It was like I was experiencing the city for the first time all over again. Or maybe even for the first time ever, since this was the environment that I had grown up in since my conception. Everything seemed so different. There was so much...'movement', you know? More than you see in darkness on any given night.
I also noticed that I couldn't read the minds of the humans around me. I...sort of missed being able to do that. I couldn't tune into their thoughts. I couldn't absorb their memories. They were a complete and utter mystery to me...and something about that made them even more interesting than ever before. Not knowing their dreams, their intentions, their attributes and their weaknesses. It was refreshing.
By the time I got off of that bus, looking at my old high school for the first time since my crossover, I had run the entire gamut of emotions over how both worlds had become so wildly different in such a short amount of time. I felt so out of place. So awkward. But how was that different from the high school experience that I was having before now? Right?
So many children. That was one of my first thoughts as I crossed the high school lawn. Happy teenagers, laughing and frolicking and wrestling playfully with one another...I had forgotten the whole vibe of what it was like to be in high school again. I would still look up at the sky and see it, bright blue, with fluffy white clouds, and a golden sun to keep us warm and safe. So weird. It's hard to admit, but I don't think I could ever get used to seeing the world like this again.
I walked in through the double doors and found myself lost as to what to do with myself. I couldn't even remember what classes I was taking at this time. Do I just...find a random room and go in? Just sit down, and maybe the teacher won't be paying enough attention to realize that I didn't belong there? What do I do? Ummm...I think my first period was...History, right? That kind of feels right. Ok...ummm....this way. Wait! No. No, this way. Yeah...this feels right.
It was at that time that I happened to see my beloved Noah coming down the hallway from the opposite end with some of his friends. Immediately, my heart exploded with joy, and my legs went weak, just knowing that he was ok.
Without thinking, I ran up to him and hugged him around the neck, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "Omigod, Noah!!! I'm SO happy that you're safe! Are you here too? What happened? Do you have any idea what the hell happened after last night??? I woke up and you were gone!"
I felt Noah's hands on my chest...but not in the affectionate way that I was used to. Instead...he seemed to be pushing me off of him. Quite aggressively, I might add. "Dude! What the fuck are you doing?" He said. And as his friends looked on, smirking at one another with wrinkled brows, I looked into Noah's eyes and I saw...no recognition there. If anything, he looked offended that I would even run up to him like that in public. Not only that, but as he sneered at me...a glimpse of those shiny braces of his that I once loved so much glistened in the light of the hallway, and I took a step or two backwards as he looked like he was about to slug me in the gut for approaching in such an affectionate way. "I don't even KNOW you, man! Get the fuck off of me!" He said, causing his friends to snicker behind him.
It hurt. Oh GOD, did it ever hurt! But...thinking back, there was a time when Noah wasn't 'ready' to like boys yet. Not just openly, but I don't think he had even come to terms with it himself at that time. He struggled with it a lot before we became a couple. Maybe I'm experiencing a time when he was still having conflicts? Shit! All I knew was that he was my one and only joy in this life...and now I'm supposed to hold back? Pretend that none of our sexy nights alone never happened? That the last year and a half was the dream, and this restrained and restricted situation was supposed to be my reality from now on? I don't like that at all. We worked so HARD to come out to one another and find a way to be together. Are you telling me I've got to do it all again and start from scratch?
"Let's get out of here, you guys." Noah said, rolling his eyes. His friends kept giggling the whole way, teasing him and calling me his 'boyfriend', almost causing him to lash out and punch them in the face for even assuming such a thing. "Fuck off!" He told them as the laughs got louder...and I found myself left there...all alone.
I sort of shuffled my way towards my History class, surprised that I even remembered where the room was after being a missing kid for two years. I even sat in my old seat. Third row, four seats from the front. I didn't bother to take my History book out of the bag. I was hurting. My heart was imploding from Noah's reaction to me and I just didn't feel the need to entertain this stupid vampire dream for any longer. Wake me up. I want to go home. Please...send me home.
Our teacher, Mr. Miller, walked into the room. I remember him. A bit of a jerk, but enough of one to really bother me. A tall man, balding on top, with a sweater vest, tie, and tightly cinched belt around his waist, every day. Heh...it's funny the things you remember from your high school days. He began to drone on and on about history, pulling down a map in front of the blackboard....talking talking talking...it was like this hypnotic mantra that was specifically made for putting you to sleep. Whether the information he was giving you was interesting or not. Specifically made for putting you to sleep...
Specifically made...for putting you to sleep...
Specifically....specifically made for.....
I think I had dozed off in the middle of class. I hope I wasn't snoring. That would have been embarrassing. But give me a break...it's been a few years since I've had to be up and alert during the daytime.
When I regained consciousness...it was difficult for me to move. Still a bit groggy, I was trying to figure out what was going on...my eyes blurry with fatigue. It was hard to focus. So hard. But as I tried to move my hands up to wipe my eyes, I realized that both of my wrists were restrained. I did my best to try to break out of them, but I didn't have my usual vampire strength. I shook myself free from my exhaustion and did my best to focus on the room that I was in. I was strapped to, what seemed like, a hospital bed. "What the...what the fuck is this?!?!?!" I said, now tugging and pulling at my straps as I tried to figure out why I was suddenly fastened in place like this! My arms...my legs...even my head! And I had a muzzle over my mouth...in a dark room with just one bright light above me.
I didn't...I didn't understand....
"Jason?" Came a voice from one of the dark corners behind me. I couldn't even turn my head to see who was speaking to me, but I recognized the voice. At least, I think I did. "Mr. Miller?"
"I need you to calm down, Jason. Remember your breathing exercises." He said, now coming into view.
"My BREATHING exercises??? What the fuck is happening right now? Why am I strapped down to this table??? Mr. Miller, what are you doing to me???" I said, trembling from the helplessness of the situation.
"The restraints are for your safety, Jason. Remember? We've talked about this." He said.
"Talked about WHAT??? I was just in class!!! What happened?" I cried out.
"Class?" Mr. Miller asked. And when I looked at him, he was wearing a doctor's coat and a pair of blue latex gloves. "What do you mean by 'class', Jason?"
My mind felt so scrambled at that moment. My thoughts...disjointed. "I was...I was at school. You were teaching my History class. I think I might have fallen asleep but..."
"So, you pictured me as being a high school teacher? Do I have that right?" He replied, and began taking notes down on his clipboard. "What else do you remember?"
"What is this? I don't understand!!!"
"You don't remember anything else except...high school?"
"What? No! This isn't even REAL! None of this is real! I just want to wake up! I want to be done with this...stupid ass fantasy!" I shouted. "LET ME GO!!!"
Calmly, Mr. Miller stepped back from the table and said, "Fantasy. That's what you think this is?"
"Of COURSE it is! Now let me fucking GO!!!" I screamed.
There was a nurse in the room who came over to try to calm me down, and Mr. Miller said, "Jason...if you keep agitating the situation like this, we're going to have to sedate you again. You don't want that, do you?"
"Sedate me?" I gasped. "Where am I?" The doctor and the nurse looked at one another, and I shouted, "WHERE AM I???"
"Shhhh...it's ok, honey." The nurse told me, putting a damp cloth on my forehead.
Mr. Miller paused for a moment, and he said, "You're in the North Western psychiatric ward, Jason. You were checked in weeks ago. We're trying to help you get better. Ok?"
What the...??? What happened to school? What happened to sunlight and pancakes and freshly made hash browns???
"Psychiatric ward? Why am I in a psychiatric ward? What am I doing here? There has to be some mistake." I said. "I'm not crazy!"
"Nobody said you were crazy, Jason. We're only here to help." Mr. Miller said. "Can you tell us anything that you can remember from the past few weeks? Anything at all?"
"Remember? I don't remember anything past last night! Then I woke up in an entirely new life...and now I'm waking up HERE!"
"But...you've been here for weeks, Jason. You wake up every day. You don't remember Nurse Robins over here? You don't remember me?" Mr. Miller said.
"But...but you're my History teacher." I said softly, the confusion invading my every thought until I was numb from the task of trying to make sense of it all.
"My name is Dr. Miller, Jason. I've never been a high school History teacher. I think youve gotten yourself mixed up again. Let's start from the beginning..."
"NO!!!! Why am I strapped down to this bed??? What are you doing to me???"
Nurse Robins said, "The restraint are for your protection, Jason. And for ours. Just relax."
"Why would you need protection? From who? From WHAT???"
Dr. Miller took a long pause, and he said, "I'm going to ask you a somewhat difficult question, Jason...and I want you to give me the most honest answer that you can, based on your memory. Deal?" I was SO lost, but if it meant maybe getting myself out of these restraints...then fine. Whatever. They've got the wrong guy! "Jason...do you have any recollection of what happened in the park a few weeks ago? What can you tell me about that?"
Still feeling bound and trapped on that hospital bed, I said, "A few weeks ago? No! I don't know what...I mean...I was just minding my business! I didn't do anything CRAZY!"
"Nobody is saying that you're crazy..."
"You sure are treating me like I'm crazy!" I wailed.
The doctor and the nurse traded another look, and Dr. Miller decided to ask me, "So...you don't remember attacking a man in the park, late one night?" I felt a shiver go through me. But wait...that was...that was just last night, wasn't it? "You don't remember attacking an Alex Jordan in the park, and biting him in the throat until he bled out ad was left for dead?"
Shocked at what the doctor was telling me, I began to shake violently. I said, "I...I had to feed. It was my time. I usually wait a lot longer than most, but if I don't find a donor in time, then..."
"So you admit to remembering the incident?" Dr. Miller said. "According to my notes here, you claim that you were a vampire, and needed to feed on human blood once a month in order to stay alive. Do I have that correct?"
I had no idea what to say. Stammering, "I...look, before this morning, I was crossed over into darkness. I have a boyfriend. I live in the basement of an old library. Look...all of this can be proven if you just..."
"You believe that you're a modern day vampire? And this leads you to acts of violence? You understand why we might need to keep you here for an evaluation, right?"
"No...I know that sounds crazy! But I'm not lying! It's TRUE!!! Ok? Look, just let me out of here! I can prove it to you! Just...just let me up!!!"
I began to fight and squirm, but I never felt so weak when it came to fighting against my constraints. Dr. Miller said, "I'm afraid not, Jason. I'm going to recommend that you spend some more time in your holding cell until you're ready to tell us what's really going on with you. All we want to do is help, ok? But right now...you appear to be a danger to yourself and others. And we can't have that here."
"NOOOOO!!!! I'M NOT CRAZY!!! I'M NOT CRAZY!!!"
"Nurse Robins?" He said, and before I could protest, she was moving over to put another needle in my arm. A sedative that completely pacified me and nearly knocked me out within seconds. "Take him to Block 7. We'll try again tomorrow."
"For what it's worth, Doctor..." nurse Robins said, "...I think he can be rehabilitated in time."
"Let's hope so, nurse Robins. Let's hope so."