I’ll never forget the day life – as we humans knew it to be – would change forever.
Vampires were real.
It seemed too surreal and yet there they were announcing their existence thanks to a new synthetic blood on the market. It fulfilled all of their nutritional needs. We didn’t need to fear them. They wanted to co-exist peacefully. The whole virus explanation saying they were allergic to silver and sunlight didn’t make too much sense to me, but – really – who was I to judge?
After all, I was a telepath, so I could hardly throw stones at what should be considered normal. For all I knew my curse was the result of some virus too, but that was neither here nor there.
Bon Temps was such a small town that it took close to two years before we’d finally gotten our first vampire. I knew right away what he was thanks to the glow that seemed to surround him, but even bigger than the shock of seeing my first vampire in person was the fact I couldn’t read his thoughts. His mind was nothing but silent to me. No one else seemed to notice at first that there was a vampire in their midst except for Sam. And when he took a seat in my section Sam offered to wait on him instead, but I shook him off. I was excited and hoped my anticipation at meeting him wouldn’t come across as me being an overeager fan girl just due to the fact he was a vampire. It was more my fascination that his thoughts were silent that held my attention and I approached him with a smile, saying, “Welcome to Merlotte’s. I’m Sookie and I’ll be your waitress. What can I get for you this evening?”
As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized we didn’t have any True Blood in stock. Sam had gotten a few cases when vampires first came out, but it had gone bad and he never reordered any since we hadn’t had any vampire customers.
His dark eyes stared up at me and I thought perhaps he’d sniffed the air before he said, “I’ll have a True Blood.”
His request had gotten the attention of the Rattrays who were in the next booth over, but I ignored them as best as I could while apologizing, “I’m sorry. We haven’t had any vampire customers since you all came out, so Sam never reordered any more after our first supply went bad.”
He seemed to mentally chew on that for a minute, so I took the time to take in his appearance. His sideburns were from a different era, but overall he was a handsome man. Of course I knew all too well that a nice looking package could hide a very ugly center, so looks didn’t hold much sway with me. Not that it really mattered since my curse made it so that touching anyone only amplified their thoughts, so what little shields I was able to maintain were completely obliterated by skin on skin contact. Which was why I was still a virgin at the ripe old age of twenty-five.
Well…that and the fact the whole town thought of me as Crazy Sookie thanks to the crazy smile I sometimes plastered to my face whenever I was trying to hide the fact I’d read their not always kind and sometimes X-rated thoughts.
After a moment, his lips formed into a tight smile as he said, “Well then, I’ll have a glass of red wine.”
I thought his request was odd since I didn’t think he’d be able to actually drink it, but I didn’t know enough about vampires to be sure. And I felt a little bit of sympathy towards him wondering if he’d only ordered it so that he could stay, perhaps feeling a bit lonely. I knew all too well how it felt to be an outsider and my ponytail bobbed as I nodded with a smile saying, “I’ll get that right out for you.”
I returned to the bar and put his order in with Sam – who didn’t look all that pleased about our newest customer, but I forced myself to not listen to whatever it was he was thinking. I knew from experience what a bad idea it was to listen in to my boss’s thoughts – having had to leave jobs before because of them – and I liked working for Sam, so I stayed out of his. While he poured the wine I noticed our vampire customer was no longer alone seeing the Rattrays had slid into his booth. They weren’t the kindest folks in town, either with their thoughts or their spoken words, and I had to hide my gall as I walked back to his table with the glass of wine on my tray, seeing Denise Rattray noticeably putting her neck – among other things – on display. The fact that Mack Rattray showed no outward signs of annoyance over her actions – combined with my own irritation over it all – made my shields slip and I nearly dropped my tray when their thoughts filtered into my head.
They were going to drain him.
I felt my Crazy Sookie smile firmly attach itself to my face as I set his glass down, saying, “Here you go.” I wanted to warn him about his newfound companions, but I was at a loss as to how and instead I tried to convey with my eyes that he should watch out.
“Thank you Sookie,” he smiled back at me, but seeing my bizarre expression, he asked, “Are you alright?”
“Don’t mind her none,” Mack Rattray spoke up as he leered back at me. “Crazy Sookie is harmless.”
Catching glimpses of what he’d like to do to me proved he wasn’t so harmless and I felt my smile tighten, only reinforcing his claim.
Lafayette called out a second later, so I returned to the window to pick up an order for one of my other tables and for several minutes I was busy running back and forth taking care of my other customers. My brother Jason and his best friend Hoyt came in – distracting me for a little while – and as soon as I had their pitcher of beer delivered and their order in, I turned to check on the vampire’s table. But it was empty save the five dollar bill next to his untouched glass of red wine.
Panic swept through me and without thinking I ran outside hoping to catch them in the parking lot not knowing what I was going to say, but knowing I had to say something. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if something were to happen to him when I could’ve stopped it. And as I wandered the gravel lot, I noticed the Rattray’s car was still there, but I didn’t see hide nor hair of them. As I got closer I could both see and hear from Denise’s thoughts that they were just inside the wood line.
And she was draining the vampire.
I crept back as silent as a mouse and got the thick length of chain Jason always carried in the back of his truck before looping back around to where I knew them to be. It all happened so fast, but I managed to fight off Mack as he lunged at me with a knife, with the chain wrapping itself tightly around his neck. When all was said and done, with his dropped knife now in my hand, I ran off Denise as well without any of the blood she’d managed to collect.
How’s that for ‘harmless’ Crazy Sookie?
The vampire was being held down by a thin chain of silver, but hearing the revving engine of the Rattray’s car made me realize we weren’t out of the woods yet. I grabbed him underneath his arms and said, “Push off with your feet,” as I struggled to pull him back into the safety of the trees. It had been a close call, with Denise swerving towards us, but thankfully we were too far back and they continued on their way.
After removing the long silver chain from his body, I wrapped it around my neck and wrists, thinking it seemed awful light to have kept him pinned, but I apologized nonetheless hearing him hiss as bits of his skin came off with the chain. Just because I’d saved him didn’t mean I necessarily trusted him not to hurt me and his mocking questions over that very thing only irritated me, as did his nasty comments about other places on my body where he could bite me. It made him less attractive to me, so I didn’t feel nearly as bad as I should have when I openly laughed learning his name was something so common – Bill.
That seemed almost as ridiculous as if he’d been named Bubba.
He annoyed me further by offering me the blood Denise had already drained from him as some sort of macabre payment for saving his life. I didn’t know anything about vampires, but from a human standpoint, I was affronted that he assumed I would expect anything more than a thank you. Gran had raised me right and I would’ve done nothing less had he been human or even an animal. All I wanted was to go back inside before I ended up saying something I would regret – and possibly anger him since he hadn’t appeared too pleased when I laughed at his name. But he stayed my feet when I learned his last name was Compton and coincidentally my new neighbor. Technically he’d been my neighbor for my whole life thanks to what I now knew to be his empty grave in the Sweet Home Cemetery that separated our land. I knew Gran would be tickled knowing someone so fascinating would be living next door, so when he asked if he could return the next night to speak with me, I saw no reason to say no. I knew as soon as I told Gran, she’d have a list of questions for me to ask him thanks to her being in the Descendants of the Glorious Dead and figured she’d try to get him to speak to her club about his experiences. I was admittedly still fascinated with him myself, but only because I couldn’t hear his thoughts. He hadn’t made a good first impression on me with his lewd remarks, but I was willing to give him a second chance and figured it couldn’t hurt to at least try and get to know him better. Seeing as how he’d just been in danger of being drained, I didn’t feel it would be fair of me to hold his less than gentlemanly comments against him – for now.
Well, that had been the plan anyway until Gran had fallen down the stairs the next morning. Her hip had been fractured and I practically lived at the hospital with her for those first few days until she finally shooed me away, using Tina to guilt me into returning home. It was no secret how difficult it had been for me to be surrounded by so much pain because with my own anguish, my shields were all but gone. So it wasn’t until I was pulling into our driveway that I recalled my new neighbor now seeing the lights on across the field. It had been dark for over an hour by then, so I assumed he was up and feeling bad for standing him up a few nights earlier, I made my way across the cemetery to explain.
When I got closer to his house I noticed there were two cars in his driveway and I almost turned back thinking he had company, but the movement through the window caught my eye and froze me where I stood.
Bill was standing there with a man – a human man – and they both had a wild look in their eyes. I crept closer, willing my footsteps to be as quiet as possible, and saw there were three other vampires, two men and a woman, in the room. And thanks to her thoughts, I knew there was another human woman as well who seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her. She’d seen better days and quite frankly could use a bath, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than their thoughts thanks to my nonexistent shields. I could only hear little bits and pieces of what the vampires were saying from the scattered thoughts between the two humans, but from what I could tell, it was nothing too nice. There was some sort of sexual energy going through their thoughts as well, but seeing how roughly they were being treated only repulsed me.
I watched the bald vampire with tattoos shove the human woman’s head down into his lap and even though I could hear that she didn’t mind, for a moment I almost screamed for him to stop, thinking he was hurting her when she…she…
Eewww…in front of everybody?
I’d seen plenty of thoughts over the years to know not everybody was as proper as they made themselves out to be. But seeing it in person was something else altogether, so I forced myself to look away from them to the other side of the room. Even Bill, who had at least appeared to be mostly a southern gentleman, was showing a different side to himself. A side I wouldn’t have guessed existed within him and I held my breath watching the female vampire come to stand behind him, shoving her hand down the front of his pants and – from the looks of it – stroking whatever she’d found in there. All of them had their fangs down and I swallowed the gasp that threatened to leave me just as I heard the male human think he had the Sino Virus when Bill finally bit into his neck.
I wanted to run away. I really did, but I was stuck because my muscles refused to move, so I was trapped as an unintentional Peeping Tom watching the ensuing orgy. It was more than rough – it was violent – with teeth, blood, and body parts coming together at sometimes inhuman speeds. The humans were powerless against the vampires’ whims – not that they weren’t getting some enjoyment from it too – and it wasn’t until I saw Bill’s head turn towards the window – searching for what I didn’t know, but hoping all the while he hadn’t seen me – when my muscles were finally released with my fight or flight instincts kicking in.
Knowing I couldn’t fight them, I fled.
I ran home as fast as my feet could carry me and locked the door behind me. It took several minutes for my racing heart to calm down, along with my panting chest, before I was able to climb the stairs. Stripping off my clothes along the way, I got into the shower, washing not just the hospital from my skin, but trying to wash away the ugliness I’d just witnessed. If that was what it would be to have a vampire lover, then I wanted no part of it. There was nothing loving or romantic about anything I’d just witnessed and my skin was red from head to toe when the water finally ran cold, forcing me to get out. I’d only just gotten into my pajamas when another gasp made its way up – and this time out – hearing a knock on the front door.
Jason would’ve used his key and seeing how late it was, I knew it could only be one person. Reaching out with my mind, I shuddered inside feeling the silent void standing on my front porch, but knowing he couldn’t enter the house without an invitation was the only thing that kept me from avoiding him altogether.
“Bill,” I nodded as I opened the front door and made sure I was out of his arm’s reach.
Standing in front of me, he appeared to once again be the perfect southern gentleman, with his kind smile, soft eyes, and lazy drawl as he nodded, “Sookie. I saw your lights were on and came to check on you. I haven’t seen you at work these last few nights.”
Oh, well I saw plenty of you tonight. More than I wanted to actually.
“Oh,” I swallowed nervously. “My Gran had a fall, so I’ve been spending time with her at the hospital.”
“Oh,” he repeated with a look of concern. Had I not witnessed the other looks I’d seen him make just a short while ago, I might have believed it was genuine. “I hope that she is well?”
I didn’t miss the way his eyes darted behind me, making me wonder if he was waiting on me to invite him in. If that was the case, he’d be waiting for a very long time, so I did my best to force a smile onto my face, answering, “She’s as well as can be expected. I hope to have her home real soon.” I was a mess of nerves inside and didn’t want to stand there making falsely polite small talk when the man literally made my skin crawl. So I let my exhaustion shine through, saying, “I’m sorry Bill, but it’s very late and I need to get my rest so I can be back at the hospital bright and early.”
When my eyes met his again, I could feel a slight pressure in my head as he said in a low hypnotic voice, “Don’t you want to invite me in?”
I recalled hearing the thoughts of one of Jason’s co-workers, Rene, that vampires could hypnotize people with their eyes. At the time I hadn’t thought it was anything more than paranoia on his part, but now I had to wonder. Whatever he was doing wasn’t working on me though, but I quickly averted my eyes anyway and said, “No Bill, I don’t. I apologize for being so abrupt, but I really am tired.”
I took another step backwards into the house just in case he could somehow reach in, but he remained where he was, saying apologetically, “Of course, some other time perhaps.”
Perhaps…maybe when I can shoot fireballs out of my hands…
Instead I ignored his request and only muttered, “Goodnight Bill,” before I shut the door.
Gran came home a few days later and even though it was mostly true, I used her as an excuse to Sam as to why I couldn’t work the evening shift for the foreseeable future. Maxine Fortenberry stayed with Gran during the day, while I did everything I could to not be out after dark. I was afraid of running into Bill, but that didn’t stop him from trying to visit me at home. Gran’s convalescence came in handy then too because she wasn’t well enough to receive visitors and as far as Bill was concerned, I didn’t have a moment to spare to visit with him at all.
Bill however was the talk of the town. I kept mum on the topic of vampires, which was pretty easy since no one ever asked me for my opinion anyway, but I could tell from what was said – and not said – that most folks were on the fence. There had been an initial uproar when they first came out, but that had died down just as quickly and now that Bon Temps had an actual vampire resident, most of the town’s folk weren’t sure what to think. However some – Rene Lanier and Arlene Fowler – were very clear on how they felt and it was hateful enough for me to stay out of their heads at all costs.
Vampires were an abomination and should be ended.
I was too afraid to say anything to Jason or Sam about Bill’s nearly nightly visits. He never stayed longer than for me to tell him I was busy, but he didn’t seem to be getting the hint either. Sam was always a bit territorial where I was concerned and I knew he liked me, but that just wasn’t going to happen. I liked working for him and while I liked sneaking a peek at him every now and again when he was lifting cases of beer, there would never be anything between us but friendship. And Jason wasn’t the best brother in the world, but he was mine and I knew if I said something about Bill he’d go over there half-cocked and looking for a fight he’d have no chance of winning. I didn’t want to see either one of them get hurt on my account, so I said nothing.
Over the next couple of weeks I noticed a change in Bill. His skin was taking on a greyish hue and he seemed to move slower, with his stiff movements making me wonder if he’d indeed caught the Sino Virus from the human man who’d been at his house the night I’d gone over there. I might have felt bad for him if I hadn’t felt that strange pressure in my head whenever he would try and suggest I let him in. But thankfully his little trick didn’t work on me and after a few times he even seemed a little disappointed that I was always the one to answer the door. I suspected he wanted to try out his little mind trick on Gran which was another reason why I didn’t want to leave her alone after dark.
Bill wanted something – from me I suspected – and I was afraid to find out what.
It had been close to a month since the first time I’d laid eyes on Bill Compton when our washing machine had gone on the fritz. Terry had come by to look at it and told me where I could pick up the part we needed in Shreveport so he could fix it and I waited until my next day off so I could go during the daytime. I got there just fine, but I’d gotten lost on the unfamiliar streets of Shreveport on my way back and by the time I was on the highway the sun had already fallen from the sky. My worry centered on Gran being all alone where Bill could get to her because even though she still wasn’t moving around all that well yet, I knew she’d answer the door if he kept on knocking. Maxine would have left by then, so I drove as fast as my car would go – which wasn’t above 50mph if I didn’t want the entire car to rattle apart – so I was especially frustrated when it decided to die halfway home. I didn’t have a cell phone and was miles from the nearest town, so I got out and lifted the hood, hoping there’d be some magical neon flashing arrow pointing at what was wrong along with the instructions on how to fix it.
No such luck. If only I had a fairy godmother.
I was just about to lower the hood, having resigned myself to the fact I’d have to walk to the nearest town to call Jason and hope that he wasn’t already three sheets to the wind, when a car traveling southbound did a U-turn and pulled up behind my car on the shoulder of the road. But the relief I felt was short lived when my mind reached out to my would-be savior and was met with not one, but three voids I now knew to be vampire minds.
And a split second later I recognized the car from when I’d seen it the first and only time weeks earlier.
In Bill’s driveway.