Chapter 14: Dreams Under Daylight


Leslie held the mug as firm as she could manage without shattering it, trying not to spill it as her leg bounced up and down. The coffee cup, which bore the message “genius at work,” contained her preferred concoction of coffee, vanilla creamer and a drop of honey, which she could thankfully still enjoy. She’d only had a few sips, though, since the nature of the situation already made her feel wired enough. Franz lapped at a saucer of milk at her feet, a bit less energetic than he was within the throes of the night. She stared up at George, who looked down into his coffee, as if he were searching for his own thoughts floating on the surface. He was wearing his favorite green robe—A.K.A. his only robe besides the purple one he kept for Leslie—over a yoda t-shirt and black plaid pajama pants. They were sitting across from each other at his kitchen table in his cozy little corner apartment. Leslie sat on the side nearest to his front door and furthest from the daylight that shone over his couch and red faux-persian rug. She prepared herself for him to either reject what she had said, or to outright reject her.

She had shown up at his place last night after making sure that Franz was well-fed. Originally, she had planned on just leaving him home, but since she had bitten him he simply refused to leave her side under any circumstance. It reminded her of that cartoon dog Droopy from those old MGM cartoons, who kept showing up no matter how far away you thought you’d gotten. They perused through alleys until they spotted an impressive rat and Franz pounced on it. She was expecting to watch him bite into it and drain it dry as she had almost done to him, but instead he did something much more visceral. After batting it around for a while, she told him to stop playing with his food and he obliged, unhinging his jaw like the latch on a fence to fit the whole thing in his mouth before mashing it between his teeth until it transformed into a stringy red paste. She wasn’t entirely sure if that was more or less unnerving than how cats usually ate rodents, since it was certainly a quicker death, and thank God for that. She was right to think that would keep Franz from attacking George, but she wasn’t completely certain of her own appetite or self-control. She made a promise to herself that if she felt an urge to… feast… on him at all, then she would turn around and never see him again.

When he opened the door she felt… fine, relieved to see him. After an entire day of fretting over her own mental state, it was something of an anti-climax that she felt normal. She did sleep a little bit, but it was intermittent with haunting dreams between staring at the ceiling. Most were borne from stress, imagining herself tackling George to the floor and sucking his eye out so she could lick the interior of his socket. Some dreams, much harder to recall, involved some bizarre cosmic symbolism. The most memorable image was the sun suspended in a cradle of interlacing metal rings, with a series of interlocking disks crawling along the surface like a scurrying centipede. In the middle of the sun was a red halo that pulsed and spun in spurts and stops around a pin prick black iris that pierced through the star’s core. It reminded her of something, perhaps something she saw in a movie, but she didn’t want to give it much thought. She gave a curt greeting and a closed smile when George invited her inside.

He had already had a long day grading papers for his summer classes, so Leslie decided to wait until next morning, Sunday, to explain everything. He was a little caught off guard when he saw Franz slip through her feet, but the two of them had always gotten along, so he didn’t really mind. The moment George touched his hand to Franz’s fur caused her to freeze. Franz nuzzled into it without incident. She could smell George’s signature lasagna baking in his oven, which would usually have made her mouth water, and perhaps still would if she could manage being hungry. After some conjoling, she took a slice and choked down about four bites. Each one was explosive within her mouth, the marinara blending with ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella in a beautiful waltz, while the italian sausage sang its own solemn reverie to her heart. It was delicious, but something within her refused to eat any more than what was necessary to fully taste it. The lie she supplied was that her stomach was upset, only taking a single sip from her glass of tap water. It tasted like nothing, honestly, without even the subtle hints of minerals grating against her taste buds, and it felt incredibly slimy as it went down her throat, as if she had sipped from a bottle of lubricant. There was no point in trying to quench a thirst that had been supplanted.

George didn’t suggest sex because she said she was feeling sick, which was fine with her because Leslie wasn’t sure what might happen if she were to get aroused. They cuddled for a while, the rhythm of his heartbeat echoing inside of her own chest in a way that made her feel like a big bronze bell. Once he fell asleep she uncoupled from him and stared up at the ceiling, mechanically rubbing Franz’s fur as he sat atop her chest. Around 3 AM, she took the book on George’s night stand, The Name of the Rose, and began thumbing through it. The image of a snowy Italian monastery on a hill and its towering aedificium imprinted itself on her mind. One of the peculiar things she loved about books was how they always made her own problems seem smaller, even when those problems were much more pressing and strange than the conflict she read. There was an entire separate world that the pages could provide a window into, a world of political intrigue and murder among 14th century monks. She had no reason to care about or search out this drama so divorced from herself, but a writer like Eco manages to construct a compelling plot that then reveals the glamor and scandal of such matters. By the time she reached the scene in which Adso dreamed of a raucous feast between biblical characters of virtue and vice, George had awoken and was shaking her softly to get her mind uncurled from its tight coil around the plot. Realizing where she was, she followed her boyfriend into his kitchen, shrinking away from the window when she saw the light of dawn. She let him fix them coffee and, once he was sitting pretty, told him everything she knew of her situation in agonizing detail.

So you and Franz-” George lifted his gaze, a familiar expression of sympathy in his chestnut eyes, “you’re vampires?

I think so, I mean, I don’t have a doctor’s note, but I’d say this is reasonable self-diagnosis taking into account all my symptoms.

Well…” He folded his gentle hands in front of his chin, “it might be smart to get a second opinion…

Uh…” Leslie released a compulsory sigh, “so you think I’m makin’ this all up?

I didn’t say that.” George’s right eye twitched a little, as it had a tendency to do when he felt nervous, “You say that these two girls did something to you? Then they did something to you. I mean, clearly you’re freaked out right now, you didn’t sleep at all last night, you haven’t been eating or drinking much, and you’re acting paranoid. It’s not just in your head, Les, but we have to exhaust every reasonable explanation before we start entertaining the fantastical.

But, just for a second, let’s just assume that I’m not crazy, that I didn’t imagine any of what I told you. Wouldn’t that make the conclusion I’ve come to seem like it is the most reasonable?

Sure, yes, but you gotta see that allowing for an impossible explanation opens you up to many many more unfalsifiable possibilities. You’re an intelligent woman, you’ve seen movies and read more books than anyone I know, and from those you’ve memorized all the telltale signs of vampirism, so of course you’d panic if you started noticing similar patterns. However, the issue here is that these stories and signifiers are fictional, they begin from the premise that we agree on these concepts because they appeal to our own morbid and thematic interests, not because we’re describing reality. Yes, some of these ideas come from folklore and genuine superstitions, but we know the origins of those too: When people would dig up the grave of someone suspected of vampirism, they would find them with longer nails, hair, reddened cheeks, and blood on their lips, which were all the result of the natural process of decomposition. Hell, the whole ‘killed by the sunlight’ idea came from the early movie adaptations of Dracula, because it meant sharper visual contrast to film at night. That wasn’t even part of the original novel, let alone the original lore. If we allow for vampires to exist, then how can we rule out the other possibilities, like you could be possessed, or you’re infected with lycanthropy, or you’ve secretly been replaced with an alien? Those are all equally likely.

You think I’m hyssterical!” He just refused to take her seriously! Slamming her coffee down hard, she splashed the hot liquid onto her skin without her even registering the sensation. Leslie leaned forward and hissed on the last word before clenching her teeth and grimacing wide. “See these, George? Did I buy these at Spirit Halloween or do I have honest-to-God fangs?

I-I mean-” George stammered, “have-have you tried taking them off?

Taking them off?!” She was flabbergasted, “These are my teeth and I can barely lick them without cutting my tongue!

Well, it’s um…” George set down his own cup and grabbed at his robe, “it’s possible that maybe someone filed your teeth while you were unconscious?

A few beads of sweat dripped over George’s brown forehead as Leslie straightened her back and tried to center herself. Of course she knew that he’d find this hard to believe, because he was always the type of guy who tried to address every problem rationally. Unfortunately, that also meant that he was stubborn about anything that contravened his conventional wisdom. She stared at his high cheeks, the scraggly beard she loved to hold in her hands, the thoughtful eyes that always paid attention to the little details from behind his smudged rectangular glasses. She wanted to convince him of what she was now sure of herself, but she also didn’t want him to think she had turned into some violent monster… without any self control. Wracking her mind for the best way to approach things, she settled upon an idea.

Okay, I know a way to prove it to you that doesn’t have any simple, rational counter explanations.” Leslie scooted her chair back and stood up. “Let’s go to your bathroom.

Their discussion had gone on long enough that the morning light reached over George’s couch and halfway across the entrance to the apartment hallway. Staring at the yellow patch on his white carpeting, she felt her heart catch in her throat as it beat like a metronome set to allegrissimo. Pressing her back against the corner of the wall, the image of a cartoon thief sneaking out of a bank popped into her mind. Pretty soon she was gonna need George to close the blinds for her if she didn’t want to sleep standing up in his closet. His bathroom looked as it always had, with mint green wallpaper, a wooden shelf for toiletries, a walk-in shower adjacent to the toilet and, most importantly, a mirror over the sink.

So…” George stopped at the threshold, “what do I need to do?

Just stand there and stare at the mirror.” She pointed to the spot on the wall directly opposite to it.

George complied and stood at the wall, though he did not avert his gaze from Leslie. She thanked God that he was more than half-a-foot taller than her so that she could perform this demonstration.

Look at the mirror, okay?

Drawing in a sharp breath, she prepared herself for whatever the consequences she was bringing upon herself. Turning her back to face the same direction as George, she shuffled her feet sideways so that she could stand midway between him and the mirror. It was difficult to figure out when she stood in range of his view, since she was unable to spot herself, but she knew when she should have been by how George’s eyes hopped back and forth from her to the glass. When she felt she was exactly centered, she looked at him over her shoulder. He was gaping a bit like a suffocating grouper.

H-how is that possible?

I don’t know.” Her voice was even-keeled, “I know I’m not dressed up in some high-tech frog suit, but whatever it is, must be pretty convincing, huh?

Why does it affect your clothes too?

Leslie didn’t have any particular theories to that effect, but she figured that now was as good a time to test it as any. Prying her headband up with her fingers, she lifted it up an inch at a time until it popped into the mirror. The plastic bobbed about like a buoy. Once she replaced it on her head it disappeared entirely once again.

Yeah, I don’t know.” She turned back to George.

His hand hovered across his mouth, gears clearly turning in his mind again. Leslie was sure that he was just grasping at any potential alternative that he could think up. If that didn’t convince him, then she needed to come up with more proof. Maybe she could toast hand in a sunbeam. Maybe she could stick her hand in the silverware drawer and see if it would start smoking. Maybe-

Okay, I believe you.” A look of acceptance washed over him as he stepped forward and hugged Leslie, who stiffened in surprise. “I’m sorry I kept doubting you. Do you… do you think there’s any way to cure this?

Tears of joy welled up in her eyes as she melted into the hug. She had been expecting him to hate her when he figured out the truth, to cast her out of his home or call the police, but in retrospect she could see that would’ve been out of character. Even if George was a bit obnoxious sometimes, he was still a good man and stuck by her side through everything that had come before. If it wouldn’t have seemed a total whiplash, she might just have proposed on the spot. Franz had finally wandered into the bathroom with them, purring as he rubbed his head on George’s ankle.

I don’t know.” She gathered herself back up to answer him, “I was thinking that maybe it’s a situation where you have to kill the master vampire, but I don’t know who that might be or if that would even work. I mean, like you said, that’s just something that shows up occasionally in vampire fiction. I mean, if it’s really a curse then that could make sense, but… I don’t feel cursed, for the most part I feel like myself, I just suddenly don’t work like I’m supposed to.

Hmm,” George considered this for a moment, “let’s give the internet a shot.


The lieutenant reclined in his office chair, luxuriating in the soaring vocals of Even Flow emanating from a youtube page he kept bookmarked. Everyone else in the Narcotics division was out getting lunch from Dimitri’s deli, but he had been forced to stick around to try and finish the rest of an especially troublesome report. He had asked his deskmate to grab him a ham on rye to go, but it was a coin toss whether or not that halfwit would remember. The pen in his hand tapped along to the beat. He always felt like he thought better when he listened to music, and this report needed writing. One attempt had already been trashed immediately after the arrest, and it didn’t help that he was operating on four hours of sleep anyway.

It had started like it always did, with the lieutenant alone in bed, dreaming about his estranged family and the bright, happy times he once knew, until a ring of his phone jolted him awake. His bitch of a captain barked at him to get down to some warehouse to break up another rave. He was getting real tired of this, especially with all the insanity kids were getting into. Not only was it satanic, it was just plain unsanitary. If the captain gave even a passing shit about her officers, then she would be sending in a hazmat team to take care of these situations. His pal Jim McConnell was a testament to her complete apathy. He was still out on sick leave after one of those tweaking children spit blood and who knows what else into his mouth.

This one, though, really took the cake, if only for how eerie it all was. Buncha dead eyed punks who didn’t even try to run when they knew the cops were coming, they all just stared ahead dead eyed while their mind numbing BDSM music droned on and on. The only one there who didn’t seem fresh from a lobotomy was their apparent leader. This fat girl wearing a tattered black dress who kept licking her sausage fingers in between reciting lines of atrocious poetry. There must have been some weird drug residue, because otherwise she had tattooed her fingers pure black with matching obsidian nail polish that gave them a repulsive, necrotic appearance in the strobing lights. Everyone nearest to her kept laughing as if she had just made a hilarious observation, but every word that dripped from her maw was pure nonsense. She came up to him and introduced herself as “Mirabelle” before calling him a “swineherd.” He cracked her one across her pugnacious face. Normally he wasn’t an officer prone to violence before even arresting someone, but something about her just gave him this all-encompassing feeling of nausea. In the moment, he was actually terrified of the crows on him in waves. The way their breathing surged, eclipsing even the pounding music, more wet and excited than he would expect from an angry mob. Mirabelle simply smiled at him and it seemed that her amusement was all that kept them at bay. She was quiet the whole time they rode over to the station, just staring at him with her grinning black eyes.

So he had to figure out how to write that down without making the punch seem unprovoked. Just writing “resisting arrest” wasn’t enough for his stickler of a boss. So he had to be creative about how he fudged things. He knew the other guys on the scene would back up pretty much anything, cause they were all good cops. Unlike that hard-ass dyke, they understood that the police force was a sacred brotherhood built on trust. Before writing anything down, though, he heard this soft hissing sound that was muffled through the office door. His gut told him that this was related to his current problem somehow, so he put on his vest and headed for the holding cells.

Stepping into the hallway, there was this strange, disgusting black substance staining the walls and floor in small patches of seemingly curdled black clumps. The smell was noxious, salty and putrefying like he imagined of those globsters that sometimes showed up on his Facebook feed. The lieutenant pulled his collar up to salvage his gorge as he unlocked the door to the holding cells. Inside he saw the bars decimated, huge holes where the tips of the metal were bent and bloated and covered with the same strange ooze. Someone must have somehow smuggled a plastic explosive or some corrosive chemical in here, but he wasn’t able to figure out how. There was also no way to wrap his head around how everyone just disappeared, since the doors were locked and the window was still latched shut. Why the hell did he have to be the only one at the station to deal with this?

Taking his gun from his holster, he held it with both hands up to his chest and put his back against the doorframe to scout the corner. He shouted something about lethal force, but he was too strained to even register it as it tumbled from his mouth. Out of the corner of his eye he saw something skittering into a ceiling vent. Something twitching and pale, simultaneously too big and too small, with too many limbs. He had to have imagined it. Had someone drugged him, or was the goo letting off fumes causing him to hallucinate? At the back of his mind, he prayed that he had accidentally fallen asleep at his desk and that this was all just a nightmare. He tread through the halls until his boot got caught in something. Looking down, he had stepped on just a few drips on the inky filth, and it felt just as sickening as it looked and smelled. Scraping the floor a few times, he got his boot unstuck while only tracking a little bit of the crap on the tiling. The door to his office was ajar and, pushing it open, he found the same bitch from last night waiting for him.

Ey, Swineherd!” She had an implacable accent that could’ve been eastern european or from some remote village in south America, “como estas? You’re just the croque de monsieur I’ve been looking for!

She was leaning back at his desk, her pointy black heels crossed on top of the report form he had planned on filling out. Under the bright office bulbs she looked even more repulsive than she had at the rave, with sickly, sallow skin, deep bags under her eyes, smeared charcoal lips, and greasy jet black hair that hung over her face in tangled strands. It was some miracle that she was free of acne, considering her poor hygiene combined with her bulk. He could see a little of her striped underwear peeking out from under her dress, but if she noticed she didn’t care, as evident from the way her breasts almost fell out of her neckline without any bra. She had some song playing on his computer that sounded like some weird europop trash that kept singing “a horse is an ass that is better than yours”? He wasn’t sure if he should’ve been more scandalized and disgusted or horrified and disgusted. Seeing that same black sludge dripping down her fingers like pancake syrup inclined him towards the latter.

Put your hands over your head, RIGHT NOW!” He took the safety off his pistol, pointing it at her and cocking it.

Eh, condolences,” she raised her vile hands placatively, but showed no signs of genuine concern, “you know, I think we’ve gotten to the wrong foot, sanguinaccio. You’ve been really quite hospitable to me and my pallos, and you’ve got a downright commendable taste in wailers.

Shut up, freak!

His hands were trembling as he shot over her ear and into the desk behind her. He wasn’t entirely certain if that was meant to be a warning shot or if he had wanted it to tag her, but either aim had resulted in failure. He couldn’t manage to concentrate, not while he had this horrible burning in his foot where the fluid she secreted was eating through his shoe. Fat beads of cold sweat trickled down his forehead as he used every ounce of willpower within him not to bend over in pain. She took a quick look behind her at the hole the bullet had made before turning back to him with a bemused look and putting her arms down.

Damnation! Pudenda! Excrement! You missed, hoss. That’s alright, I’m a good sport. I’ll let you one more shot at me, though you may want to save it for your own rendezvous.

Don’t fucking taunt me, cunt!” He snarled through grinding teeth.

Hey, no need for flattery, we’re all friends here,” she eyed his foot, “‘least we’ll be soon enough.

What is this stuff?!

It’s a hex, my signature magic trick,” her eyes widened expectantly, “and you get to be my beautiful assistant.

The flames broiling him from the inside spiraled tighter and tighter, spreading throughout his nerve endings. He wanted to scream, but his lips were wired shut, so he could only create muffled, whimpering groans. Looking at his leg, his calf spasmed and seemed to bubble like boiling cheese beneath the fabric of his pants. His hands stuck fast to his gun and through the pain he managed to cock it again with his quivering thumb. One more shot, that’s what she said. She was giving him the choice to either put her down or put himself down. There was only one real option. This she-beast was the devil incarnate, and it was his sworn oath to protect and serve. He was the sheepdog meant to protect his flock from the wolves, no matter the cost. He leveled his sights to her forehead through the increasing haze over his vision and squeezed the trigger. Her head sung back, but only two inches. Her grin grew larger and hungrier as she looked up toward the sizzling, drooling hole beneath her hairline. The blood and pus that poured from it was boiling, steam billowing off her head as she tilted her head mockingly.

Too bad Burroughs, poor choice,” a few drops of blood dripped off the tip of her nose, “I don’t mind, though, I’m always pleased to adopt a new pet. Ehehe, perhaps I’ll call you Babe.

His gun fell from his shaking hands as her wound ejected the bullet that had pierced her skull, dropping into her lap while a dark scab crusted over the hole. All the colors in the room were blending together as he lost control of his balance and fell onto the floor face first. The pain had metamorphosed into an acute numbness. An immense pressure acted upon him from within and without. With no control over his mouth, his jaw hung loose and that same viscous oil spilled off his tongue. Only his left hand was still visible to him, she he watched the bones of his fingers split open his skin and fuse with his nails into sharp talons. There wasn’t any need to worry, though. He was still a good sheepdog. His eyes turned up to see Mirabelle crouching over him. God, she had such a kind smile. Why had he been so mean to her? She was beautiful. So, so beautiful.


This is what it meant to be alive.

Here she was, wearing nothing but her pendant and a smile, a meek little thing shifting in place for her to admire from the headboard. The poor creature looked so uncomfortable in her own skin, squirming about and rubbing her arm as she bounced her eyes back and forth from the breasts of the woman who had willingly invited her in. She was gonna have to learn the proper way to accept an invitation. “Thomas” knew why she was here, her host had been sure to explain everything in exhaustive detail, and if it ever felt too real she always had the option to back out. Anamika did not mind waiting, because she was perfect at choosing her targets, and sooner or later she knew that they could no longer resist her offer or herself. The toned, naked woman patted the soft spot beside her, welcoming her newest doll to join her.

A full two semesters of college, just to secure her cover identity, and all she had to do while she waited was train and fantasize about getting laid. None of her older girls could come along on this assignment, they weren’t really capable of going more than a month or two without consistent feeding, and she could just imagine the spectacle of students suddenly disappearing left and right. She was proud of them for taking care of themselves after they left the nest, particularly because there were a few names scratched into her mind of the girls who didn’t make it. She had failed them. Beyond her disguise, she did feel a deep kinship with the role of the teacher. What is a good teacher supposed to do? Introduce her students to something new, something scary, and work to reveal its contours without removing its luster, changing it from one great mystery into an intricate, rhizomatic structure of smaller mysteries. A good teacher passed on her knowledge without inflating her ego as some arbiter of truth, instead emphasizing that she only knows a fraction of it, allowing her students to chart their path in their own directions, at their own pace, even if they occasionally contradicted her own. There were many ways to be a bad teacher. Distilling everything down to just rote formulas and drilling them into their heads. Sterilizing something awesome until the project of study simply became a project of crimping and cataloging. Advertising your personal philosophy as absolute doctrine beyond any reproach. Simply leaving your students alone to sink or swim without proper instruction. She had known many bad teachers.

As any expert teacher tends to be, Anamika was picky. Not picky for perfection, nor even potential necessarily (though that was nice), but willingness to learn. She did not see an abundance of that as visiting professor Anna Singh. Most of her students only cared about sitting through class and getting their credits. Many were diligent, but the diligence of a novice was typically coupled with the assumption that they already knew all there was worth learning. For some time, it looked like she would have to go to war with fallow fields, so to speak. That was, until “Thomas” came to her during her office hours. She had just assumed “him” to be one of the diligent and disinterested, getting good grades and keeping “his” head down. “Thomas” had a few telling questions about the passages they had read from Bodies That Matter, and it did not take much probing for her entire facade to burst open in a deluge of tears. This had certainly endeared her to Anamika, and soon they began seeing much more of each other.

“Thomas” sat next to her, face an adorable shade of flushed red, her eyes pleading even as her mind was anxious. Not all of her girls had been shy little wall flowers, some had been quite brash, but all of them wanted something they saw as unattainable that she was more than happy to give them. Anamika tore into the soft flesh behind her lips, letting her blood flow free before using her tongue to paint it across her lips in concentric circles. “Thomas,” for her part, sucked on her own lips from some sympathetic pain.

Come kiss me,” though phrased like a command, it was truly more a participatory demonstration.

The maiden leaned forward and puckered her lips before Anamika stole them. If “Thomas” had ever kissed anyone before, it certainly hadn’t been recently. That was fine, Anamika enjoyed taking the initiative. She pushed her tongue past “Thomas”’s lips, tasting the heat of her mouth as Anamika coated it with her own blood. The girl was frozen for a second or two, passively receiving, until she tentatively started suckling on Anamika’s tongue. If she opened her eyes at that moment, she might have noticed that the teardrop necklace around her teacher’s neck was glowing a faint shade of emerald. Etched into it was an ornate harpoon whose vicious blade curved back onto itself. Anamika grasped it in her hand and made her offering. Once the kiss was broken, a string of bloody saliva bridged their mouths, “Thomas” looking to her for guidance. Scattered across her brown irises were bright flecks of green.

You’re ready, love.

I’m not sure, Dr. Singh…” “Thomas” whispered.

My name is Anamika, sweet girl,” she ran her hand against the girl’s wiry hair, “you’re mine, and what that means is up to you. If you want to stop here, then we can, but I know I tasted a much greater need within you.

You’re right…” The girl looked away, lost in thought.

The girl slid to the edge of the bed and started to clumsily undress herself. She peeled off the sweat stained hoodie that she wore well into the heart of summer, then removing her belt and tearing away her jeans. What “Thomas” was doing was only ‘stripping’ in the most clinical sense, a ritual she performed with familiar reluctance. When she got down to her shirt and tented underwear, she looked ashamed. Anamika slightly lifted the stained corners of her lips to reassure her. The girl was tall and hefty, a small paunch hanging over her pelvis, dark body hair scattered over her arms, legs, crotch, and chest. She had the kind of build that could have been athletic if not for despising her own form, though that wasn’t to say Anamika didn’t like a little meat on the bone. She felt a little bad that this always required the girls to be nude, for their sake, because she was used to seeing women of all shapes and sizes. Whatever they wanted they could have, and if what it was changed, then they were free to change too. They had all fought long enough to deserve that.

Thomas,” The girl winced at the sound of her nom de guerre, “I never want you to feel like you have to throw something away just because that is what’s expected of you. By that same token, you should never throw away what’s precious to you for the sake of something that should be temporary. From today onward, I am throwing Anna away, because I don’t need her or her name anymore, because being Anamika is more important to who I am.

I guess I should let him die too,” the girl’s right eye was watering, “I just don’t know if there’s anyone else to take his place.

The names we take on hold power, love,” on instinct, Anamika affected her teaching voice, “very few can bear the burden of one true name, and the ones that try find that eventually they’ve changed too much for it to belong to them anymore. A proper name is one that is bound to you, not the other way around, and it is just as amenable to change as the person who wields it. I want you to drink of my blood, from my chest, and you will allow it to wash over you without shame or remorse. Once you feel yourself sated, Thomas will be dead, and I will know the name of my new daughter.

Alright…” she nodded her head.

Anamika extended her will toward the extremities of her right hand, focusing on the ring and middle finger to cause accelerated and enhanced growth of her nails. She had shaped her own body over the centuries into the ideal vessel for her work and livelihood, slowly modeling each cord of muscle, strip of skin, and sliver of bone into a concealed weapon. Gentleness took far more discipline than the simple act of killing, but her capacity for both was what elevated her from a crude swiss army knife into a beautiful instrument of death. She dug her claws into the flesh above her left clavicle, tearing down to her manubrium and up again to her right clavicle in a symmetrical V. The dark blood rolled over breasts, forming slats of maroon rivulets that warmed the cool flesh and sparked her nipples erect. Guiding her willing pupil to the valley of her chest, the girl looked up at her, eyes full of conflicting emotions. Anamika gave a slight reassuring smile and blinked her own eyes deliberately, exhibiting her comfort and control over the situation. Taking a victory lap in their little staring contest, the girl kept her eyes locked as she pressed soft tongue against the fresh stream of blood. The instant she felt the exploring, versatile muscle touch her flesh, Anamika could sense her heart rate rise with her chest. Her breath caught in her throat. Warmth spread throughout her torso in globs of molten pleasure, her claws deftly tracing spirals across the girl’s back for encouragement.

Anamika was not one to proclaim anything her first love, for doing so would necessarily diminish her other passions. Still, the ritual of claiming her girls, inducting them into an order which no longer had a proper name, that had to be the top contender. No human had a choice in their parentage, and very few of her kind could claim that privilege, so she took a special pride in the fact that all of her daughters chose her. It meant that they had a bond much deeper than just blood. So many completely disregarded the identities of their children, treating them like designer pets that they could groom into whatever they wished. That was one of the reasons why Anamika had no compunctions about killing fellow parents. Watching the sun mummify them or the blood drain down the neck of her sword, revealing the unavoidable weakness of the bodies they thought rivaled the Gods, that was delicious. Her heart also prayed that it might give some comfort to the lives that they had ruined.

Alongside her alignment with the teacher, she often saw herself as an artisan as well. A sculptor, not of clay, but of marble. The one thing she added to her girls was a piece of her own essence, one they could grow and cultivate themselves, everything else already existing inside of them. It was not a process that took only one night, because repairing the damage of their previous lives and helping them to discover self-love was not something that could be ritualized. The girl’s licking had ceased. Anamika held her up by the shoulders and hoisted her up to let the girl rest her head in the crook of Anamika’s neck. The girl’s hair was longer, still oily, but more lustrous. Anamika’s hand caressed the mosquito bite breasts on the girl’s chest, their heat indicating a desire to flourish. Her skin was smoother, more supple, and hair on her chest fell off in patches as Anamika brushed against it. There was plenty of fat to work with, gradually relocating to cushion her fall. Still, at this moment, she was already beautiful. Anamika’s dried blood stuck to the girl’s jaw, neck, and breasts as her eyes fluttered like a moth to the light.

How are you feeling, sweet kitten?” Anamika’s fingertips tapped against the girl’s dark cheek, “what is your name?

Dina.” Her voice cracked on her first word, “I feel… good… in a way that I just… I don't know how I’m supposed to feel or even the words to describe it…

You’re not supposed to feel any particular way, just as long as you’re present for it,” she wiped a tear from Dina’s face, “you knew you didn’t have to come to me for this, not really. Could you tell me why you sought me out?

Dina took a moment to think, looking down upon her own form. She blinked once to ensure the changes were real, and a second time to be sure that she hadn’t just looked that way before. Anamika could remember the same two thoughts occupying her own mind.

My life was never mine. Yeah, I know I didn’t have to come to you, I could’ve figured this out eventually,” Dina pressed her left hand against her breast, “but there was nothing for me to do, nothing that wasn’t expected of Thomas, and I knew that it would catch up to me sooner or later. Being with you, being yours, to me it means I can have a family and be someone that I respect.

I’m proud to call you my daughter, Dina,” Anamika kissed her once more, “you will be strong, my heart. But, for now, you need your rest.

The light of Dina’s eyes faded away piece by piece, sluggishly pulling her consciousness into an unseen and abyssal cocoon. It would be a long, dreamless sleep until she awoke with a start to find a world both strikingly familiar and new, both welcoming and forever drenched in simmering hostility. Anamika set her daughter’s head down on the pillow beside her. In the back of her mind, she wondered why she insisted on doing this, creating her own lateral lineage of violent, unspayed stray animals, and doing it with such pageantry. The obvious answer was that she enjoyed it, that it was something she was meant to do regardless of whether or not it was right. She knew that was the case for feeding, because she had long ago matured beyond the idea that her victims “deserved” the pains of hell she inflicted upon them. No matter how old she got, no matter how many loopholes she discovered and survived within, she and Dina were still dealing with the same problem: could they keep on living without any assurance that they deserved to? It was her responsibility to convince Dina that the answer was“yes,” even if she could never be so sure of that for herself.

Anamika reached out to the black object on the nightstand, holding it up to her gaze in both of her hands. The pariah dog. It was her second face, yet she only took it off when she hid herself away. It never meant anything special, no matter how often her enemies compared her to Anubis or Fenrir. She wasn’t some god or mythical beast, she was just a bitch taking blood for money. Her clients heard about her from word of mouth and reached her ear through one of her girls. Most of her clients, anyway. There were many mysteries surrounding her current patron. The one time they had met in person, Anamika was sure she had smelled human, and yet… She knew what hunters smelled like too, and if she had seriously suspected that then the girl would’ve been dead on her feet, but that wasn’t it either. What she wanted was ridiculous, like using a mousetrap to kill a bear, and yet here Anamika was anyway. Maybe the opportunity was just too tantalizing, or maybe her death drive was getting the best of her.

Either way, one old bat was going to meet her end.

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