(Same picture, different POV)
The room spins, and the light dims.
I hear my heartbeat in my ears, slowing, growing fainter as the seconds tick.
My life’s blood soaks me in warmth, caressing old flesh in death even as it cradled newborn skin at birth.
No, I will not miss this world, but I did at least think I would miss my child, until she made an end of me; she walked away as I cascaded down the wall, my feeble hands scrabbling for purchase that wasn’t there, and couldn’t hold onto if it was.
Her high heels clicked on the hardwood floor, tiny hammers banging tiny nails into my soul as she walked away.
“Annalynn…” My throat burned as it squeezed out her name. I needed water, but I could feel the craving turn for something richer, thicker, red, and warm.
I shook my head.
My vision was blurring, and my heartbeat slowed even more.
And the day I brought my murderess home bloomed in my vision like the sudden clearing of clouds after a proper storm.
Something was inside the writhing white sack in the middle of the road, the rain turning it beige in the headlights of my car.
I almost hit the sack, but managed to swerve in time; even before I righted the car she was out the door, and the sound of human wailing cut through the patter.
A baby? Someone left a baby in the sack, on the road, on a rainy night; I knew what would happen next, but never thought of what happened later, until it was over.
Janice came back with the writhing contents of the sack in her arms, and we never told a soul we suddenly had a daughter.
Questions were asked, suspicions raised. “Janice’s sister died. This is her niece, Annalyn; it was in the will she be raised in a good home. No one else, it seemed, wanted her.”
We had no paperwork to back this story, and though eyebrows arched and tongues wagged, no one called the authorities to find out the truth. The child seemed healthy enough after all, and we weren’t struggling financially, and did they reeallly want to get involved…?
Annalyn, our adopted child, grew up happy and strong, bright, gregarious, fearless almost to the point of recklessness.
Her keen wit held a sharp tongue, and she championed herself through the pecking order of school cliques and would-be bullies.
By her fourteenth year, the boys began circling, smelling blood and hormones, but what I managed to rebuff she encouraged, indeed, deigned to catch.
Janice grew ill, and Annalyn grew temperate just long enough to ease her fears until she passed; I think the tears were real the day we lowered Janice to the earth, but when she looked at me with a small smile gracing her lips, like a spider standing behind a fly, I knew something else was amiss.
She wasn’t home much after that, and her disdain for my despair at losing Janice was only exceeded by her contempt for my authority. I searched her room when she wasn’t home, and found not only evidence of boys, but a fascination with the undead as well: books, drawings, magazines, and letters from a boy named Daray.
I decided to confront her, though I was nervous. I put my hands in my pockets to hide the fact that the tremors of my eventual demise had started.
“Daray turned you? Made you? He’s damned your soul, is all he’s done. And Janice…she was wrong to bring you back here. You’ve done so much harm.”
“I’m grateful to you, papa. Really, I am, but I have to go.”
“You killed my Janice.”
“I know you think so. There’s nothing I can do about that.”
“Die!” I ran toward her, my aged gait shambling and off center; she easily sidestepped me and tripped me, laughing low as I scrambled up before she could hit me again, but she made no move to fight.
“I don’t want to hurt you, papa.”
“That’s all you’ve ever done.” I knew it wasn’t true even as I said it. We’d spent many moments together, her on my lap, a book in her hands, reading to me, her hair tickling my neck as I leaned over her shoulder…she’d been so sweet, such a bright child.
I broke down, weeping, and to my surprise she came, put her arms around me, kissed my grizzled cheek.
“I know, papa. I’m sorry about ma.”
Finding I needed the illusion of comfort more than I thought, more than I liked, I sniffled; my arms finally returned her hug. “I miss her too.”
The sudden drop in temperature made me think I was dying in Annalyn’s embrace, and I tried to step out of it. Her nails penetrated my gut as she pulled me back, her eyes boring into mine; I was mentally caught in a vortex, a heightened sense of vertigo causing a rush of panicked adrenaline to surge through me.
I bucked, jerked, thrashed against her, my body instinctively knowing it was under attack. Her fingers plunged deeper into my stomach, pulling something inside taut, clutching; blood seeped through my shirt.
She bared her fangs in a feral smile, and bit my neck.
I shivered from the freezing cold, and grieved with abject horror at what she’d become.
When? How? Am I dreaming? Is this real? Did Janice…?
When she let go, the pain hit with such force I crashed against the wall, trying clumsily to regain my footing.
Daray was in the doorway, watching me the way one watched snakes catch mice.
“Why, Annalyn?” So cold…
She stopped, and though she didn’t look at me, I felt her gaze like a weight.
“You want to be with Janice, papa. There was room in your heart, your life, for no one else. You said I killed her, that I separated you.”
She half turned then, seeing me slump against the bloody wall. “Isn’t it only right that I be the one to reunite you?”
“Goodbye, papa. Greet Janice for me.”
The room stops spinning.
The light fades.
The seconds slow down.