“You didn’t have blonde hair, either,” I half-smiled at her. “It used to be dark brown.”
“I dyed it.”
“Oh,” I said. “It looks good.”
“Cut the bullshit,” she said. “Just start explaining to me why you sent those letters.”
Looking into her eyes, I could see the reflection from the flame dancing in them and I said, “Before the world got pushed, whether you believe me or not, you did use to study music. I met you at college. I wasn’t studying anything really – I was just having a good time. Then, I met you and all that changed.”
“I fell in love with you and you fell in love with me,” I told her. “But one night I scared you real bad and you told me to leave. So I did. But I couldn’t forget you. I loved you, Soph...Caroline. I wrote you those letters trying to explain...hoping that I could win you back.”
Staring at me, she said, “So what did you do that scared me so much?”
“This,” I said, standing and taking off the scarecrow’s coat. I rolled back my shoulders and let my wings unfold. They beat up and down on either side of me. I locked my jaw as my fangs came through and splayed my fingers to release my claws. I looked at her and this time she didn’t look scared, just curious.
To see him standing before me as I had seen him in my dreams – nightmares – made my flesh turn cold. Not out of fear, but in realisation that I must have known him before - how else had I dreamt about him? Why else would I have the feelings that I did for him? I felt as if I had once loved this man, but he had died many years ago and I had moved on with my life and fallen in love with another. But he had now returned. He hadn’t been dead at all but just lost, and all those feelings that I’d once had for him – which I believed were gone – now came rushing to the front. I felt overwhelmed, but I couldn’t show him that.
Although I had feelings of love for this man who stood before me, I didn’t know him. He was like a perfect stranger to me.
“So you’re no longer scared of me?” he asked, his black wings trailing behind him.
“Do I need to be scared of you?” I breathed, unable to take my eyes off him. I remembered the dream in which I had seen him standing in my bedroom as I screamed at him to get out.
He must have sensed something in the tone of my voice or in the way that I stared at him as he looked at me and said, “You do remember, don’t you?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. I didn’t want to tell him I had dreamt of him. To admit to that would mean I would have to admit to the feelings that I had for him. I couldn’t do that. This wasn’t real, it wasn’t happening to me. I had only ever had one life, the one where I lived with my mum and dad, where I had trained in medicine, where I had fallen in and out of love with a sweet guy called Marty, who was now dead...
“You’re lying,” Potter said, as he came across the gloomy room towards me.
“I’m not,” I said, looking away. I couldn’t look into his eyes. “If what you say is true – that the world has somehow been pushed, how come I received your letters?”
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said, stopping in front of my chair.
I could hear his breathing in the semi-darkness and the humming sound that his wings seemed to make as they beat gently together. I wasn’t scared of him, not like I had been in my dreams. I wanted to reach out and hold him, to be close to him, but I was scared that if I did, it would feel like I was holding a perfect stranger.
“You know what I say is true,” he said.
“No, I don’t,” I said back. “It doesn’t make sense.”
“And that’s why I came back to look for you,” he said. “I was hoping that you might have some answers.”
“I don’t have any,” I told him, and then added, “Where have you come back from?”
“The dead,” he said. “I was murdered – you weren’t the only woman who has ripped my heart out. I died and came back.” He looked at me. “Why don’t you look surprised by that?”
“Do you know someone by the name of Kiera Hudson?” I asked, looking up at him.
“Yes, why?” he asked curiously.
“Because she was murdered too,” I told him, my eyes fixed on his. “I was the pathologist carrying out the post-mortem on her, when she came back to life and went running into the night.”
“You mean that it was you who...”
“Yes,” I cut in. “Two others showed up and...”
“Isidor and Kayla,” Potter said.
“My friends,” he said. “We’ve all come back from the dead. But we didn’t come back to the world that we once knew. The one where me and you had once been lovers, where U2 was called U2 and London was called London.”
“What are you talking about?” I gasped, getting up from the chair and going to the window.
“This is not the world that I once knew,”
he insisted, following me to the window.
“So in this other world you talk about, creatures like you roamed around free did they?”
Then looking him up and down, I added, “What are you meant to be anyhow, some kinda vampire?”
“A Vampyrus, actually,” he said, sounding a little pissed off. “And besides, we didn’t just wander about – people would have stared, don’t you think?”
“They don’t stare at the wolves,” I told him matter-of-factly.
“Wolves?” he said, gripping my arm again.
“You’re hurting me,” I said, pulling free of him. “The Skin-walkers, they’re wolves that steal the skins of humans.” Then, looking him up and down again, I added, “Wait until they get a look at you.”
“We didn’t just stroll about. We lived in secret, unknown to the humans,” he hissed.
“That’s why you were so scared of me, when you saw me like this. In the world before it was pushed – creatures like me existed only in books and movies. No one must see me like this – not here.”
I looked at him and he stared back at me.
Then as if reading my thoughts, he said, “Who have you told about Kiera Hudson?”
“Is she a Vampyrus like you then?”
thinking of what Marty had told me about her blood.
“Have you told anyone?” he barked, his eyes turning even darker, if that were possible.
“I gave Marty some of your friend’s blood to test,” I said sheepishly. “I also told him her name. But that doesn’t count, because Marty is...”
“Where is the blood now?” Potter snapped, gripping my arm again.
“A cop took it from me,” I started to explain.
“Cop!” Potter growled. “What cop?”
“The one I shot,” I said, trying to pull my arm free of his claws.
“You shot a cop?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “You really have been pushed.”
“He made me shoot him,” I told him, squirming free. “And he knew all about you.”
“What did he know?” Potter snapped at me.
“How should I know?” I said. “But I don’t think he liked you very much. He said you were a wise arse.”
“Did you tell him about Kiera?” he asked me, his voice sounding anxious.
“He wanted to know about the girl who had come back to life in the morgue, so I told him her name,” I said.
“You did what?”
“He made me!” I shouted at him, feeling pissed off that I was getting the blame for all of this. “He already knew about her and the blood – he just didn’t know her name that was all.”
“Who else have you told about Kiera?” he breathed, his fangs just inches from my face.
“Just Marty and the cop,” I said. “But Marty’s dead now...”
“Shhh!” he hissed, covering my mouth with one of his giant claws.
Then, from outside I could hear the sound of vehicles screeching to a halt outside. With his free hand, Potter opened the curtains just an inch and a spray of pulsating blue light lit up the room.
“Cops!” he groaned.
Pushing his hand away from my mouth, I peered through the gap in the curtains. “There is another thing I haven’t mentioned; most of the police force is currently searching for me.”
“I don’t think they’re after you,” Potter said, staring down at the mass of cops below and at an ancient old woman wearing a nightgown.
“Why would the police be after you?” I asked him.
Then, as if in answer to my question, I saw the little old lady point up at the window and shriek, “That’s the pervert I caught sniffing my knickers!”
“You did what?” I gasped, stepping away from him.
“I’m not a pervert!” Potter barked at me.
“Well there’s about five or six coppers down there who think you are,” I said.
“And they’re not going to catch me without a fight,” Potter growled, spreading his wings.
“Empty your bag!” I shouted over the thumping sound of the cops charging up the stairs towards the flat.
“Why?” Sophie – Caroline – said back.
“Just do it!” I snapped.
She pulled the letters, some clothing, and an iPod from her holdall. Holding out the rucksack towards her, I said, “Put the stuff in here.”
“Why?” she asked again.
“Because I need you to carry the rucksack. I can’t, remember?” I said, beating the wings that hung from my back.
“Oh, yeah,” she said, understanding the point that I was trying to make.
“Have you got any money?” I asked, as the cops started to pound on the door.